Day 17 NaPoWriMo and I am feeling a bit more serene. I am taking my time to walk around my poem a day today. And the prompt is more congenial, too.
Our prompt for the day (optional as always) follows Gowrishankar’s suggestion that we write a poem re-telling a family anecdote that has stuck with you over time. It could be the story of the time your Uncle Louis caught a home run ball, the time your Cousin May accidentally brought home a coyote and gave it a bath, thinking it was a stray dog, or something darker (or even sillier).
The featured photo is one of my mother and Grandmother Russell, who both feature as characters in today’s offering. It was taken when my mother was about the age she was in the tale recounted.
The last time I saw my mother alive
My brother was driving us so I could catch
The Chinatown Philly-NYC jitney.
She was recounting a memory
of another bus trip maybe seventy-five
years or more ago
to the disbelieving ears of her grandson.
I was catching my first connection
back to my life that was many stops and changes
away from the USA.
She told her memory like beads on a rosary,
the pink crystal ones she kept at her bedside.
She began with her sister, oceanside
in New Jersey waving her off on her journey.
How Mamma met her at the station
in Philly to pack her off onto the correct bus
on the leg to Washington, D.C.
An unknown friend or some kind of cousin of Mamma’s
met her there since it was growing dark
to usher her into some midnight caravanserai
before setting off through the night
sitting bolt upright through Maryland and Virginia.
Morning light and North Carolina. Gertrude’s brother
was there in his pride and joy jalopy.
Her cumbersome suitcase filled the whole rumble seat.
The front seat was full of meet and greeters
so she clung onto the door handle
surfing into Winston-Salem on the running board,
grinning at being back, wind speed making her florid,
feeling a bit desperado, like Bonnie and Clyde
At this point in the narrative
her grandson looked like his head was beginning to hurt
configuring an impossible Venn diagram from
this rather staid, devout, stalwart
ancient relative and that girl who was only
just turned fifteen.
Which was probably the age when I first heard
this tale, when I learned that my mother
was someone not solely concerned about
my health , and could actually be quite
devil may care about personal safety.
She was off with her childhood adventurers
hanging by a speeding Model T’s handle
with kids with whom she had climbed trees and
smoked corn silk behind the outdoor privy.
She was the before to her after.
And then, just then, I knew how
I wanted to be that woman’s daughter.
how that Her had been able to make me.
Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith