Category Archives: Family

Shelter: Portrait for Weekend Mini Challenge

 

Shelter

On the prairies of Dakota, 
weather often came with exclamation marks.
My father’s forehead was ringed like an old tree,
white from above his eyebrows to his fast-retreating hairline,
from his hat pulled low to guard from every vagary of weather.
“It’s hot as the hubs of Hell!” he’d exclaim as he sank into his chair at noon,
sweeping his hat from his head to mop his brow.
A nap after lunch, then Mack’s Cafe for coffee with his friends,
then back to work in the field until dark, some days.

“Cold as a witch’s teat in January!” was as close to swearing 
as I ever heard my dad get, November through March,
stomping the snow off rubber

overboots in the garage, tracking snow from his cuffs through the mudroom/laundry.
Cold curled like Medusa’s ringlets off his body.
We learned to avoid his hands,

red with winter, nearly frozen inside his buckskin gloves.

His broad-brimmed hat, steaming near the fireplace
as we gathered around the big formica table in the dining room.
Huge beef roasts from our own cattle, mashed potatoes and green beans.
Always a lettuce salad and dessert. The noon meal was “dinner”—
main meal of the day.

Necessary for a farmer/rancher who had a full day’s work still ahead of him.

Our weather was announced by our father
with more color than the radio weather report.

Spring was declared by his, “Raining cats and dogs out there!”
Only now have I really thought about how we were protected
from the vagaries of weather as from so much else.
It was a though my father bore the brunt of all of it, facing it
for us, easing our way. It was his job.

We were sheltered, all of us,
from those extremes of that land I didn’t even know was harsh
until years later, living in milder climates,
remembering the poetry
of how a man who really lived in it
gave us hints of its reality.

 

This is an extensive rewrite of a poem published earlier this year, redone for a prompt given by the weekend mini challenge  to create a portrait with words that is based on a photograph or painting of a person.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mother.

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My mother, whose maiden name was  Eunice Lydia King, went by the name of “Pat” Dykstra for all of her married life. She died at the age of 91 in 2001, which means she would have been 109 this year. She kept her youthful sense of humor, her keen wit and her independence for her entire life. I thank her for all of the meals cooked, white blouses pressed, animals trained, constant support, laughter, for creating such a beautiful and secure home and for instilling within me a love of books and rhyme. I would give anything to be able to spend this Mother’s Day with her, floating in the pool and drinking frozen daiquiris, which if I recall correctly, she called “Daktaris!”

Predisposed to Erudition

 

Predisposed to Erudition

Central to dad’s disposition
was his need for exposition.
Topics such as  soil condition,
family stories, nuclear fission,
required a bit of erudition.
And every tale’s newest edition
had its own unique rendition.

 

Today’s prompt word was disposition. Here is the link:
https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/05/09/your-daily-word-prompt-disposition-may-9-2019/

Career Guy

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Career Guy

By the time that he gets home at night, his wife is muttering,
but he’s too busy for analysis. Therapy’s not his “thing.”
She says they must examine whether they should part.
He says business takes precedence over affairs of heart.
Even when he’s finally home, his attention’s rarely won
by all her little anecdotes of what the kids have done
at school and right here at home. She tries to draw him in,
but still his mind’s not with her. He’s intent on where he’s been.

This goes on for years and years until one day he finds
when he gets home at nine o’clock, that she has drawn the blinds.
And when his key turns in the lock, there’s no one there to greet him—
no friendly cooking odors or kids are there to meet him.
Nobody in the bedrooms. Nobody in the hall.
When he enters the kitchen, nobody there at all.
He tries to think what day it is, but he doesn’t know.
Could it be a Friday night? Could they be at the show?

He searches for a note that says where everyone may be,
but his intensive searching ends in futility.
No toys are scattered on the floor. Their closets are all bare.
No TV noise is blaring. No footsteps on the stair.
His briefcase on the table has papers sticking out.
He has a lot of work to do. Of this there is no doubt.
And since it’s not his nature this paperwork to shirk,
he mixes a martini and settles down to work.

Of course his business flourishes once there are no distractions.
He need not fill his home life with discussions and reactions.
He has gained three hours or more to work thus unencumbered.
Frozen dinners and new contracts filled his life until he slumbered.
He saw their pictures on the fridge when mixing a libation,
and once a year he saw them when they were on vacation.
He walked his daughter down the aisle the day that she was married,
trying to fulfill his role, though he was slightly harried

over the Dixon contract, yet he sat worry aside
just long enough to witness as she became a bride.
Later there were grandkids and other celebrations.
He sent his warmest wishes and his congratulations.
He always paid the child support on time with no exceptions.
He made a show at baby showers and birthdays and receptions.
But he never really showed them his affection much until
he finally revealed it, much later, in his will!!!

 

Prompt for today are busy, anecdote and examine. Here are the links:
https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/04/17/rdp-wednesday-busy/
https://fivedotoh.com/2019/04/17/fowc-with-fandango-anecdote/
https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/04/17/your-daily-word-prompt-examine-april-17-2019/

Memento: NaPoWriMo 2019, Day 12

Memento

The ring is dull with tarnish that I will not wash away
for half of its life stories are wrapped up in the gray.
The silver was the fairytale­­––the fantasies they dreamed
before they discovered life was much more than it seemed.

Thousands of daily scrubbings of tablecloth and shirt.
Another thousand cuppings of fingers through the dirt
retrieving carrots, beets and potatoes for the table.
She wouldn’t have removed the ring, even if she were able.

Through my whole long childhood, I saw it on her hand,
wondering at the beauty of that simple silver band.
Worn thin with age along with fingers sinewy and spare,
the silver gleam lost to the ring wound up in her hair.

It’s pattern now worn down with age, it nestles in a box
with other family memories: jewelry and rocks,
a tiny woven figure and a buttonhook and key––
each one rich with happenings still held in memory.

All worn and rusted, tarnished with the lives that they were part of,
I don’t know all their endings and I do not know the start of
many of these objects that now are all that’s left
of the family members of which we are bereft.

Their lives rest in these objects in their depleted beauty.
They’re here to provide evidence, as though it is their duty
to tell entire stories, both the pleasures and the pain,
so the lives they’ve touched upon have not been lived in vain.

And though I do not wear the ring, I cherish all its beauty––
all its former silver gleam obscured by toil and duty.
For the years since she first left us, I have kept it tucked away,
like so many of her virtues, hidden to the light of day.

 

Here is the NaPoWriMo prompt: Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem about a dull thing that you own, and why (and how) you love it. Alternatively, what would it mean to you to give away or destroy a significant object?

Shelter: NaPoWriMo 2019, Day 10

 

Shelter

On the prairies of Dakota, 
weather often came with exclamation marks.
My father’s forehead was ringed like an old tree,
white from above his eyebrows to his fast-retreating hairline,
from his hat pulled low to guard from every vagary of weather.
“It’s hot as the hubs of Hell!” he’d exclaim as he sank into his chair at noon,
sweeping his hat from his head to mop his brow.
A nap after lunch, then Mack’s Cafe for coffee with his friends,
then back to work in the field until dark, some days.

Those long Julys, we kids strung tents across the clothes lines in the back yard
or lazed under cherry trees,
no labors more strenuous than wiping the dishes
or dusting the bookshelves in the living room.
Books were our pleasure during those long hot summers:
our mother on the divan, my sisters and I on beds in dormered rooms
with windows open to catch infrequent breezes,
or deep beneath the veils of the weeping willow tree.

“Cold as a witch’s teat in January!” was as close to swearing 
as I ever heard my dad get, November through March, stomping the snow off rubber
overboots in the garage, tracking snow from his cuffs through the mudroom/laundry.
Cold curled like Medusa’s ringlets off his body. We learned to avoid his hands,
red with winter, nearly frozen inside his buckskin gloves.
His broad-brimmed hat, steaming near the fireplace
as we gathered around the big formica table in the dining room.
Huge beef roasts from our own cattle, mashed potatoes and green beans.
Always a lettuce salad and dessert. The noon meal was “dinner”—main meal of the day.
Necessary for a farmer/rancher who had a full day’s work still ahead of him.

Our weather was announced by our father
with more color than the radio weather report.

Spring was declared by his, “Raining cats and dogs out there!” 
We knew, of course, from rain drumming on the roof as we sat, deep in closets,
creating paper doll worlds out of Kleenex boxes for beds and sardine cans for coffee tables, rolled washcloth chairs and jewelry box sofas. 

Only afterwards, now, have I really thought about how we were protected
from the vagaries of weather as from so much else.
A mad dash across the street to school was the extent of it,
or short trip from car to church or store or school auditorium.
It was a though my father bore the brunt of all of it, facing it
for us, easing our way. It was his job.
As my mother’s job was three hot meals a day, a clean house, afternoons spent
over a steaming mangle, ironing sheets and pants and arms and bodices of blouses.
After school, one or the other of us girls at ironing board, pressing the cuffs and collars.

We were sheltered, all of us,
from those extremes of that land I didn’t even know was harsh
until years later, living in milder climates:
Australia, California and Mexico.
Our lives, seen in retrospect,
as though for the first time, clearly.
Remembering the poetry
of how a man who really lived in it
gave us hints of its reality.

The NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem making use of a regional phrase describing the weather.

Family Reunion: Final Spin

Family Reunion: Final Spin

The first couple on the dance floor were surely insignificant.
Bent-over spines and frosted hair made them less magnificent
than all the younger dancers who came out to surround them—
making them invisible as they grouped all around them.
The music started and the pairs all commenced their waltzing—
with glides and dips, extended arms, and all that fancy schmaltzing.
Soon, however, they backed off from something in the middle.
Voices hushed throughout the room until only the fiddle,
piano and the clarinets were heard in the night air
as all the others dancers watched a central pair
of waltzers gliding o’er the floor, eyes wrapped up in each other,
once again that little girl just dancing with her brother,
magically suspended in those steps taught by their mother.

The prompt words today are frosted, pair, insignificant and waltzing. And, the cat bit me on the tip of my little finger today and I’m wearing a bandaid, so forgive any typing errors. Especially regarding ‘”[{}]or/?  It may have been a very aggressive love nip or a hurry up and feed me nip or an excessive response to a really good ear scratch/neck rub, but whichever it was, it was very naughty and brought blood. Perhaps vestigial remains of the blood moon of a few nights ago.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/01/26/rdp-saturday-frosted/
https://fivedotoh.com/2019/01/26/fowc-with-fandango-pair/
https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/01/26/your-daily-word-prompt-insignificant-january-26-2019/
https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2019/01/26/waltzing/