Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Poem on the Occassion of a Thunderstorm

. . . that has nothing to do with a thunderstorm aside from that it reminded me about a thunderstorm-themed poem my dad emailed us once and of which I was reminded as I sat with the kids at the kitchen table and watched the thunderstorm break outside and counted the silence between the lightning and thunder.

When I went to my inbox, all I found was this one, but it was sad enough and enough on another topic I think about often (well, a few topics) that it would work as an adequate sub: the sentimentality of a place. Places, more than people, arouse in me a sense of sadness and remembrance of the past. How strange it is to live in a place where others once lived, and then to move on and have the home contain other people. I could wax very boring on this subject but luckily for all involved I only have a few minutes to dash this off before I plop the kids in the tub, who will only get out when they hear their daddy come home to "ressle!"

May I also mention that this poem explains most things about the Smith sisters. Our dad raised us on this poetry. And the poem my sister describes that she will write is a synopsis of the poems that were our regular bedtime reading from the time I was Andrew's age. And maybe I am glad that I am not kidding, though Brigham may sometimes wonder what I may have been like without the World War I poetry acting as the literary backdrop to my childhood.

Two Hours From Now

Two hours from now there will be dawn
in the place of my childhood, light in the room,
but another will turn slowly with sleep-ridden eyes, not knowing
the continuity of flesh or what lingers
in the wisps of the night as the high plains sunlight
touches the window, or the little walk where my father
used to sit with the papers on Sunday.

Only I in this eastern city remember a brief while
and then go my ways, knowing no one can put two things together.
The old house, I suppose, insentient, calm, does not remember, nor its inhabitants,
or the quarter lost under the front porch,
or the room in which I wept from a quarrel
or the stove in the kitchen by which I studied.

Mother is gone.
Father sleeps on a hilltop in another town.
We are all lonely.

Why do I write to myself as dawn is breaking two thousand miles away?
Nothing will be solved. The house does not remember,
nor the dead, nor will the window curtain waiver.
I have followed the dawn to no purpose, there are only the paws
of a lost puppy imprinted in the cement of the sidewalk.

I, the living ghost, stare at them across a lifetime and do not speak.
There is also a toy boat still hidden in the attic.

Ok, so this next bit is to help any of you who read the poem (you really should though) wipe away the tears. This was my sister Jessica's emailed response:

That was a really sad poem. Where did you find it and who wrote it? Thanks for sending it.

It has inspired me to write a follow-up poem -- it is called, "Two Hours from Now I Hope I'm Dead". It's about a rabbit who just had his leg amputated and he hobbled through a garden gate and stepped in a snare (with his remaining limb) and is screaming in pain knowing that no one will ever find him, and as he watched the eyes of the other rabbits passing him over and resting on the bunnies who are whole, he thinks to himself, "Why don't they come put me to bed, why don't they come?", and then someone drops poison gas on them all and the whole bunny colony is wiped out.
It's a touching poem -- maybe Emma, Luke, Samuel and Andrew would enjoy it as a bed time story.

I think they would, Jess. For a good time, read the following:


Allie said...

I love the Smith family!

Such striking poetry, tasty chocolate chip cookies, and a good dose of hilarious antics.

While it was so sad for the rabbits in Jess's poem, just think how lucky the hunter will be when he comes to collect his lucky rabbits foot.

Bill Smith said...

Dear Brigham, Agustin and Matt (sons-in law),
As you know by now,you have married women whose father (me) was very, very, very involved in his daughters' lives. Thousands of chocolate chip cookies, poems, stories, games, parks and adventures. I really didn't have (or want) much of a life outside of wife and children. Brigham, Agustin and Matt, if you are wondering what they would be like if they hadn't been exposed to some pretty powerful poetry when they were children, I have to say that I really don't know. But I still love to be with them. I hope you do, too. And when you don't, just blame it on an over involved dad.
Alexandra correctly said that the poem explained a lot about the Smith sisters. That is especially true about Jessica's appropriate poem in response.
And if you are worried about my becoming too involved in your childrens' lives, Emma (grandchild number 1) and I are not going on our week long GPS trek across the Great Dismal Swamp until she is ten. And Brigham, even though Andrew loved seeing Jurassic Park, I won't let him see The Exorcist and Jaws until he is four. Will loved the exhibit in the Museum of Natural History showing the lions attacking a Cape Buffalo, so we will wait until he is two before we go to Africa to see the real thing.

By the way, if anyone is interested in the poem about the thunderstorm (it is very sad), I'll find it and send it to Alexandra to post on her blog.

Tara, Doug, and Isaac said...

Jess's response is hilarious. I was laughing so much that my husband asked about it and I got to recite the poem. It's an excellent read-aloud:).

AJM said...

My dad's bedtime poem for us as we were growing up was as follows:

Jimmy and Freddie and Frankie
went down to the river to play,
Jimmy and Freddie got drownded,
and Frankie floated away.

Maybe not as highbrow as the poetry in your household, but the McGinns had morbid down pretty well.

E&A said...

I suppose this explains a little bit about your personality. Hmmm.

Tat said...

I love, love, love reading your blogs.

Also, I remember you reading me a poem your father had read you about a bird nibbling a pathetic berry in the dead of winter... do you remember the one? It was a real knee-slapper.

Alexandra said...

was it the one that ended, "gone to the dust is he and all who heard his song with me."? Or perhaps,
"why, oh starving bird, when i
one day's joy would justify
and put misery out of view
do you make me notice you?"

I think those are both Hardy. The atheist poems were the best, though.

Alexandra said...

Alec, no judgment here about the high or low brow nature of the poems. If they teach tiny kids about death, whether in a watery grave or of gas poisoning in the field of battle, it is the same. Fun to know this about you!

Tat said...

It was the second one you quoted. But the first sounds really uplifting, too. They're perfect tuck-you-in poetry.

Eliza said...

I am dying here...not literally...but of course figuratively. I would love to know your dad. He sounds like a great guy. And I'm like Alisha, I'm not at all surprised you were raised on so much poetry.

Also I realized I need to read/recite more poetry to my kids. My favorite poem which my own dad recited at night, which is a little bit sad but mostly tender, was "A Cradle Song" by Yeats. It may seem sappy to some, but I always love to hear it:

Angels are stooping
Above your bed.
They weary of trooping
With the whimpering dead.

God's laughing in Heaven
To see you so good;
The Sailing Seven
Are gay with His mood.

I sigh that kiss you,
For I must own
That I shall miss you
When you have grown.

Alexandra said...

Oh Eliza, I love that poem! I think the ending makes it very very sad and thus Smith-memorizing-worthy.

Mer Swift said...

I LOVE you, Alexandra! That was SO great to read. I actually had opened this posting a couple days ago, but didn't have much time to read it and knew that I wanted to devote a good amount of time to reading it; so i just came back to it. I seriously feel so blessed to know and be friends with all of you. Your dad (obviously) did a lot, or everything, right.