I am currently working on several different poetry projects.  I will label each post with which project it fits into.

This poem is one that is a part of a project called (in my head at least) Portrait Gallery.  I am working on poems on various people in my family tree, trying to work on defining who they were and who I am as a result.  This poem is about my father, which I wrote a number of years ago, when I was working at a college 45 minutes from my house.


Legacies

 I

I drive like my father.

I never really noticed before

But during my long commute

On the open interstate

I can now see.

 

            My left knee bent, 90 degrees,

            Supports my left hand —

            Back on the knee,

            Fingers curled round the wheel —

            My right hand occasionally lends support

            But usually rests, gently,

            On my right thigh.

 

The realization shocks me,

Driving into the sun

On the anniversary of his death.

Another brilliant October day.

 

His legacy revolves around cars.

When the phone call came,

I was painting the new garage.

That cool October day,

Leaves surrounded my feet.

My purple sweatshirt was streaked with

The signs of my marginal competence.

Inside the phone machine blinked,

And I heard my mother’s voice

Apologizing

For telling me of his death

By these mechanical means —

Of the unexpected stalling

Of a life I had never been without.

 

II

 

Autumn had always been my favorite.

New plaid skirts and knee socks,

Sharp pencils and smooth paper —

Did I become a teacher from that love?

He calmed my annual fears,

Assuring me that I would do just fine.

The glory of the trees would

Line our river valley

Masking the industrial ruin

In a riot of color.

We’d watch the World Series together,

Especially if the Pirates played.

Baseball linked us

Across our age and gender.

 

            After that call I cried for my loss,

            But also for my little boy’s.

            He’d never know my gruff, burly dad.

            He wouldn’t remember him at all.

            So we watch the World Series together,

            My son and I.

            And every time I look at him,

            I see my dad.

 

The cemetery is an isolated island

On a deer trail

In a sea of corn.

At his funeral,

Yellow leaves floated

In the breeze.

 

III

 

I came to dread October.

T.S. Eliot was wrong, I thought.

So many people died in October —

Autumn was cruel, indifferent,

Killing off parents

As if they were no more than the leaves

That could return in spring.

Yet my father’s memory and spirit

Return mysteriously.

 

            The first time that I parked my car

            In that coveted, close spot

            At the crowded mall lot,

            I thought it chance.

            But then it happened again

            And again. And again.

            Everywhere I went.

            Then I knew.

He’d given me his special gift —

His luck at finding

The perfect spot.

So when it happens —

Every time —

I whisper “Thanks, Dad.”

 

IV

 

Can the patterns arise?

Move and shift?

 

            After my car pulls into the lot,

            I emerge to hear the sound —

            Familiar, yet barely —

            At the edges of recognition.

            The sensations wrap about me —

            The chill dense breeze,

            Trees dancing to music of their own making,

            Brown leaves playing tag —

            All part of the acrid tang

            Of ripeness and decay.

 

My head tilts upward,

As if of its own accord.

The darkness of inverted Vs

Perforate the cool blue

Gradually, consistently, persistently

Moving, shifting,

To become the southbound giant.

 

The geese honk.

I accept the complexities of autumn.

 (c) Lydia A. Schultz 2009