Old tractors can’t retire with much dignity.
Ours rests over yonder, near the barn.
With winter’s cold, snow, and ice,
or dry poundings of hot summers,
she tries to show well, just a little rust,
peeling paint, heavy worn tires.
Made to plough and cumber a heavy beam,
an ox of steel and rubber, she carried men to work,
sowed seeds, and tilled the soil.
A mammoth farm and ranch hand, she
pushed and pulled cultivators and harrows,
drug fertilizer wagons,
pulled mowers, rakes, and bailers
with tires heavy with water and mud.
I still remember the day I first grabbed ahold
of her wheel learning to drive and work hard.
Thank you, my friend, for teaching me
so much about life, work, sweat, tears,
and the weather. But mostly about how
to age gracefully and with dignity.
Look both ways but history teaches more.
Mind the gaps, find the truth, keep your pride and dignity until a tractor retires.
From the bar at dVerse, Lisa pitched me the Prosery Monday poem, “When We Sing Of Might,” by Kimberly Blaeser (see it here).
From the poem, Lisa lifted a line for me to fold into a piece of prose of fewer than 145 words of my own making but including the line, “I dress in their stories patterned and purple as night.”
I had to use every word of the entire line. I was allowed to change punctuation and to capitalize words, but I was not permitted to insert words in between parts of the sentence.
But for the Grace of What?
I walked the muddy road through the depressingly disgusting homeless camp. There was nothing but mud everywhere; muddy tents and muddy mad people totally demoralized and pissed off at the world that had put them here. They were angry about being in this place and they refused to come to terms with what they themselves had created, not just a camp, but a metaphor for their lost lives, an intractable bog of stink and decay. The city provided piss pits and shit pots smelled to hell and back. These lost souls were in the grips of unshakable petulance. It was in their eyes, posture, and the way they walked. To report on this homeless debacle, I knew what I had to do. I would be in Rome and do as they did. Briefly, I dress in their stories—patterned and purple as night.
Look both ways to see all that’s there.
Mind the gaps, but spare judgement.
There, but for the good grace of random fortune, go I.
An odd pair were we. Everyone’s friend, as
SpineRipper called me
(to rib my neutrality),
knowing I was his.
Navy fighter pilots,
JW, warrior to the core.
Taught me to call the ball
when in the groove.
We cried at kiss off.
Look both ways except on short final to your carrier.
Fly the ball, not the deck, and mind the gaps.
Aviators die here.
Gloss: Captain John (SpineRipper) Waples (USN) was my boss and friend (sort of). He was also one of the greats of Naval Aviation with 1,300+ aircraft carrier landings, 400 at night (a rumored record). He flew many combat missions. He was the original shock and awe combat leader.
I met him after we had both hung up our flight suits, although John still owned and flew his own biplane (he called a kite). Wapes was an enigma to me. Blunt and easily angered (thus the call sign/nick name), yet amenable, and a man who seemed to care about people. We had little in common except for what seemed to be an honest mutual admiration that neither of us ever understood. I didn’t know until the end. I will never understand why. Call the ball, in the groove, and kiss-off are USN fighter pilot jargon.
Fist sized, emotionally uninvested, hearts
are busy little buggers. Mine’s bionic:
seven stents, a new bovine based aortic valve,
and a safety pacer to keep it pumping
1,680 gallons via 100K systole beats
every day. Deathrate’s down two thirds.
Tricky business, this staying alive.
Look both ways and exercise physically and mentally.
Mind the gaps and feel the beats.
Thanks to Merril (from New Jersey) for hosting this dVerse bar challenge: Prosery Monday: A Time, to which I am responding on Tuesday. Merril says to write prose of less then 145 words in response to this line from the poem “A Time” by Allison Adelle Hodge Coke.
“when it is over said and done
it was a time
and there was never enough of it.”
Genre: flash memoir
Word count: 143
Title: L’esprit de l’escalier
Last Fall, I wrote a poem about watching my father drink coffee and smoke when I was a young child. Our father-son relationship improved slightly later in life.
I’d received good reaction to the piece, so I considered its potential for submission. I requested further feedback from a critique group (mostly fiction writers). I was aware of the potential risks, but I wanted to know their thoughts.
One person asked, “I did not understand the last few lines where you said, ‘I figured it out. He did too. In the end, it was just the end.’ Can you explain what you meant?”
Stumped for a good answer, I copped-out with, “He died”—a true but poor response on my part.
Now I could simply say, “When it is over, said, and done, it was a time. And there was never enough of it.”
Look both ways for answers.
Mind the gaps in the poetry of others,
it’s where we may find answers.
Today’s dVerse Poet’s Pub prompt for poetics is Looking out the window, provided by Peter Frankis. While the challenge was to take a picture, post it, and write about it. I adjusted time a bit. I used a picture I searched for and found that my wife took of me through a window, 48 years ago. This idea came to me quickly and I could not let it go.
The Window Behind Me
A window from the parlor to the covered front porch
of my parents’ home, a memory of chewing paint off the sill,
of watching adults sit and talk and wave as neighbors walked by.
For eighteen years, my view of the world outside
where wind blew, rain fell, thunder clapped, people sang,
cars passed and honked. Life beckoned me to the stage,
through that window.
What was I thinking 48 years ago? My young wife and new son
in the window behind me. Our future? Was I talking or listening to
a passerby? Was I thinking of losing that hair as it turned gray?
Four-years military—done! College degree, done! Responsibility
branded me an armed man. Was I up to it? Did I have life,
or had it taken me?
Would the photographer still be my wife after 54 years? Would I have two
more children and would they be in their forties with more kids?
Would I build two careers and retire? Would I write poetry?
I had time. I knew I would live forever. I did not even know what I didn’t know.
Now, I know. Some I wish I didn’t discover. A window from the past
reflecting the future. The present me, right here, right now, today.
I want to say, relax, you’ll be fine.
Look both ways through every window.
Mind the gaps and cracks.