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And the Gods told our fathers

Give us your sons

And we will trade their smiles for death.

Send us their coats of many colours

And we will change those colours to red,

Give us their sandals

And we will exchange them for boots with which

To tread upon the lives of nameless mothers.

Give us their shirts and

We will smother the children in them.

And they will hate us for it.

 

We will lie to them,

We will never set them free.

 

We will take the lives of your sons

In wars over greed and lust.

Our altars of sacrifice will bleed once more

With glorious blood.

The spilled blood of your sons

The sons of the poor, the sons of the illiterate,

The sons without hope, and the foolishly brave.

 

And we will teach you deception,

We will teach you loss

We will teach you sorrow and

We will desert you when you grieve

And you will thank us for it.

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1. Your ashes blown eastward

Memories fade like flowers

Phoenix cries at night

 

 

2. We take our final walk

Your ashes mix with the frozen ground

The snow learns your name.

 

David Henry Hass,

Jan. 5, 1928 – Jan. 12, 2017

Missing my father, he died last week and his ashes were spread over his favorite hunting spot without a ceremony, as was his wish.

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I posted this first on Facebook, to share it with my family and those friends who were kind enough to offer words of comfort in the days after my fathers death. I am re-posting it here.

 

I am surprised and forever grateful at all of the warmth and support I have received regarding my fathers death. It truly is empowering to see so many kind words from friends and family both far and near, new and old. I will try to take the time, later, to thank each of you individually but for now, please accept my heartfelt gratitude.

When I grew up, my father and I didn’t have a close relationship. My parents divorced when I was about 6 years old and he and I had some very different concepts as was so usual in the 1960s. I knew that no matter how much I might have wanted things to be different, no matter how much I, in my youthful innocence, blamed myself for their divorce, things were the way they were for reasons that I couldn’t understand, nor change. Sadly, I don’t have a great deal of memories of him from my youth.

I do remember the service station / garage he owned at the time of the divorce. It was up in NW Portland, an area I actually would move to after college. I was in kindergarten and then first grade (ages 5 and 6) and when school was out, I would sometimes go there, to be with him and to have a parent to watch over me, as Mom was also working. I seem to remember it being a Flying A (or Texaco?), station by brand name. I would sit on the long workbench in the garage, where they did the car repairs and look forward to eating the chocolate malted milk balls, called Hercules, that he hid in a drawer. I remember his trucks; he was also a truck driver and was often gone on longer hauls. That had, as I found out later, a damaging effect on my parents’ marriage, and my memories of and relationship with him. It meant that I didn’t see my Dad as much as other kids did theirs. I do remember going to the woods with him, though, as he always loved the outdoors, hunting and fishing, and he passed that love of nature on to us.

Sadly, the divorce was not all smiles and fond farewells. There was more than a little bit of bitterness, due to the circumstances involved. As an insecure, shy 6 year old, I bonded with my mother, who had custody of us, as is typical in a single parent family. I remember hearing some of what was said, or what I thought was said, or what was implied, or what was the creation of either me or my siblings and being fairly well devastated by the whole thing. As I said, I internalized it. Without understanding where these feelings came from, without knowing the reality, despite the best efforts of both parents, sometimes directly or by proxy, and my brother and sisters, I remember being very sad, more sad than angry, although I was angry too, for a very long time and I kept it inside.

Sadly, I don’t know what my father thought of me growing up. He was never the type to express his feelings at all. If you allowed him, he would show his kindness, his humor, but rarely did he talk openly and never about the divorce, not to me. Probably for that reason, he and I grew apart. I more or less decided to go my own way without his support or consent. Through my college years and for many years thereafter, we rarely saw or spoke to each other, and then it was strained and uncomfortable.

I remember one time he had gone into the hospital for surgery, when I was a fully grown adult. I don’t remember the year, but I THINK, I was living in Yakima at the time. My Mother told me to call him at the hospital and talk to him, a request that always brought both tension and resentment to the surface. It was a very short phone call. I remember almost every word. I said I was calling to see how he was and hoped he was resting. He replied “I’m fine, and you don’t need to call anymore. Goodbye” and hung up. I was shattered. What I didn’t realize then was that it was his way of dealing with his own discomfort at being in the hospital. He hated it, as I found out later and felt as if his air of invincibility was compromised. His gruffness was not intended to wound, but was an almost desperate defense against vulnerability. My mom had asked me to call her back and let her know how he was doing. I did. I told her how bloody angry I was and that I didn’t want to call him anymore. And I didn’t for a number of years.

In 2002, I met the woman who would later become my wife and decided to finally get married. The wedding was to be held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day in 2003, at my sisters’ house in the Portland suburbs. It would be small, only family and a very few select friends, invited verbally or by mail or phone. Despite the informal invites, friends and family rsvp:d. Except my father. You usually didn’t know whether he would show up or not. I remember telling Inger that I doubted he would come and wasn’t at all surprised that he didn’t rsvp. He did show, and it started a healing process for us both.

After I moved to Stockholm the next spring, it was harder to keep contact with anyone in my family, of course. I called him a few times a year; each phone call would be a little warmer in tone than the last. Easier, I suspect for us both over time.

In May 2016, I got a phone call from my sister, Della. Dad was very ill and probably would not recover. My brother kindly offered to pay my airfare to Portland and back so that I could be with the family and see my father. He had been extremely ill on the days before I flew in, but was in good form and spirits when we all showed up at his house near the Oregon coast. He had arranged for us to have an oyster fest and had a whole bunch of fresh oysters, beer, salad, all the things you would want (except sunshine). We talked about how things were in Stockholm, how my wife was, she was home, and my job, etc. We talked about his health problems. The others arrived and he was in a great mood. As I left, we shook hands, and I gave him a kiss on the forehead and told him I loved him. I hadn’t said those words to him in I don’t know how long. I called him a few times in the months after, and the conversations were glad, albeit short. He always hated the telephone.

On his birthday this year, Jan. 5th, I called him again, and wished him a happy birthday.

That was the last time I talked to him.

I’m writing this not to be sad, quite the contrary. To be happy that he had the life he had. To be happy that he and I made the peace we made. And to let him know that I love him and will miss him very much. There was a gaping hole that wasn’t filled and it was both of our faults, his and mine. Fortunately it got filled, at least partially, before it was too late. My family and closest friends always tried to tell me to find a way to mend it, that I’d regret if I didn’t. I would, for the most part, shake my head. I’m glad I finally listened.

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The hardest part of a poem is always

The start.

The saddest part of a journey is often

The journey itself.
A woman in a hijab waits in the subway

The whoosh of air as a train passes by,

Rustling the edge of her scarf on her soft face.

Posters on the windows of the train mere colors as they pass

Blues and greens and lots of yellow and white, and red

Red, the color she left behind,

Not red like a sunset, but Red.

Red like the lights of an ambulance,

Red like the cheeks of a wailing child.

Red like the blood-streets and sidewalks. Red.
The lights of another passing train flicker by.

Her hijab offers no protection, no barrier is formed between the soft fabric and

Faces lit and then hidden

Eyes shine momentarily and then retreat to dark.

Eyes she’s afraid to meet.

Faces she has learned not to look back at.

The color of her skin disallows contact.

The happiest part of a journey is quite often the arrival.

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My love sleeps with unicorns

In a bed of softest feathers and hay, 

On a cloud of warmth and love

A cloud so high we mere ones can only wish. 

Her gown of finest linen, moving but

Soft as her breath gently lifts its folds

Around her form. 

Her hair falls on her shoulders in a gentle

Storm, blown but by the softest breeze, 

Brown and golden in a light that sparkles

Like a wandering stream in Springs’ morning sun. 

This maid of constant joy sleeps silently, 

I see her there, always as if the first time, 

Wearing a maidens crown

Of daises and wild strawberries. 

Her tomorrows ensured

With gladness and beauty, 

Gold and silver, memories of laughter

A constant joy where ne’er a tear falls from her eye, 

Her memories and dreams are but 

Fields of gold and skies of azure blue

As she called you by your name and ran 

Into a tomorrow of wonder, 

A tomorrow she can hint at, but only the few

Untarnished warriors and knights can find. 

You know she has the answers, 

Cast in a web of knowing, 

But you never ask.

I can but watch and marvel at her beauty

As I, I who are so unworthy

Scorn my crown of thorns. 

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To say that the situation in Syria is an absolute abomination is an understatement. I do wonder what the future will bring, of course, we all do. What price will the people finally pay? How many more will die? All the obvious questions and those perhaps less obvious. I wonder about a nation that is butchering it’s own without any seeming regard. I worry about the children who can’t go to school, who can’t drink safe water, who can’t,,, well,, it feels so insincere for me to presume what they feel. I can’t begin to understand. This is where poetry comes in. It has a very unique ability to capture the terrible and transfer the image to the conscience of the reader. The cosmic connection of imagery as only poetry can accomplish. This article is one that I found about poetry in Syria. I found it fascinating. Sad, of course, but uplifting that poets can still use their voice. I ask, dear reader, do have a look,, let their poetry reach beyond the bombs of Assad and Putin. Here is the link;

‘Poetry is a witness’ to suffering wrought by Syria’s civil war

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Harriet Tubman On The Hilltops Of Heaven

 

Prayed as she tossed stones down

Into the valley of remembrance.

And each she offered with a prayer,

A word of blessing to each name

Written one by one on each stone.

 

To those both named and unnamed,

The mild and the strong,

The wretched and the saints.

To each life ripped away by hatred

Those who empowered

Those who oppressed

Everyone who hid behind walls

Those who stood to be counted

Those who were beaten down.

Those who saw their own death

Written in front of their eyes

On burning crosses

Spread across Mother Earths bosom.

Who saw their children’s souls ascend and

Cried the tears of Virgin Mary.

Those who at the moment of death

Saw their own fate reflected

In the futures of their children.

Those whose lives were filled with fear,

Those who heard unforgotten words of hate

In their dead ears for centuries.

Those who touched the sky,

Those who could barely crawl,

Those killed because they ran,

Those hung from trees,

Those dragged into the earth,

Those whose wounds bled for generations.

Those who believed blindly,

Those who suffered the lies in silence,

And those who knew a lie for a lie

And died trying to teach.

 

When she ran out of stones

Her cry was heard throughout the universe

For there were so many more names than stones

 

 

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