Sued51's Blog












We are halfway through National Poetry Month and I haven’t posted a poem. Shame on me!

I decided to post one of my own today and share someone else’s before month end! Enjoy…

Clock made of Wood

Roy’s Clock

 

REMEMBERING ROY

On my wall, the clock Roy made

loses time every day, but I dutifully reset it.

I keep it for the picture of my grandmother

he varnished onto the pine wood tree slice

that reminds me of a knotty pine cabin

in the mountains of California she once owned,

a string to a memory of a summer visit there that made me soar with dreams and happiness.

I keep it to remind me of him.

The clock of Roy’s heart stopped long ago

in a tragic way:

he was run over by his own car

as he tried to stop it from rolling down a hill.

Our possessions sometimes betray us;

our death can be entwined with them,

just as our life is entwined with them,

like ivy running wild,

over time crumbling the very bricks

it is attached to.

Roy, maybe you knew this;

you thought you could bypass it

by giving away your dreams:

the bricks of your life repurposed.

I remember the day you turned us loose

in your garage of clocks;

you told us to take what we wanted.

After their crafting was done

and your time was spent,

they no longer affirmed your life

or made money to live on,

just collected dust.

With bitter generosity you let them go

 to pseudo grandkids,

like released birds you had once loved,

with hopes they would soar

somewhere you couldn’t.

Roy, I don’t even know where you are buried,

but across the country your clocks tick in small apartments,

twigs in the nests of lonely people;

where will they go from here?



{January 12, 2015}   A Tiny House Story

rundown

Abandoned house

Anyone interested in what it is like to live in a tiny home? Not one that looks like this, I’m sure!

I’ve been reading about the Tiny House Movement for a while through Rowdy Kittens and other blogs, so when Chronicle did a special about tiny houses the other night, I had to watch it. I love the IDEA of living in your own tiny mobile space, and admire the people who follow through with it, but I don’t think I could do it (not without having a storage unit bigger than my house). 🙂

Much to my surprise, a few minutes of the show was dedicated to the narrowest house in Boston in the North End. I was transported back in time as I watched the segment; my friend, Danielle had lived there for a brief time in the 80s! She had a lovely summer garden party in the deceivingly large courtyard behind it.

I remembered her giving me the tour; she told me how often she caught people staring at the house. It is only 6 feet wide in one spot (as they show in the TV segment). There was one room on each floor (the second floor included the bathroom), so there wasn’t a lot of space, but the view was wonderful at the top! It looks out over Copp’s Hill Burial Ground and you can see the harbor (at least you could back in the 1980s when I visited). I was taking a poetry workshop at the time so I wrote a poem about it not long after Danielle’s party. I had to experiment with form and rhyme as an assignment, which I very rarely do these days.

It took a little digging to find my notebook from that time, but I thought I’d share the poem:

 

 Guided Tour

Into the narrowest house I was led,

half a hundred feet from where sea captains sleep,

up on the hill in their cold narrow beds.

I step up the narrow stairs, hollowed and steep,

the old wood worn smooth without sagging,

from hundreds of years, and sizes of feet.

On the second floor I’m chastised for lagging

behind to peer into the small bath and bedroom.

Up and around, I’m instructed, zig-zagging

Up to the living space, cozy as a womb,

Keep going, I’m told, though I want to stop,

then I’m climbing again, dropping my gloom.

Suddenly it seems we’ve come to the top;

there’s a soft bed, lit by a window

in an alcove where we happily flop.

Laughing she finally lets me know

the vision she wanted to share with me —

the tourists staring up like dead fish below.



{August 18, 2014}   Like a Bad Penny…

Punk Rock, Pet Rock

Punk Rock

You know what they say about a “bad penny”? You don’t? I had to look it up as I was writing this. Not sure it fits exactly, because it is not turning up multiple times, unwanted…but this little treasure just turned up in our recent forage through shed boxes. I had thrown it out back in the 80s, but here it was still kicking around. My father would sometimes “rescue” things we kids threw out, thinking they might be worth something or we might regret it later. I guess this was one of those items.

Of course there’s a story behind it. (Isn’t there always?) It once reminded me of a painful experience. But thanks to the blessings of perspective and maturity, it now makes me feel something completely the opposite. It now represents the love and caring of dear friends. What a difference years can make…

I thought I’d tell the story here and then toss it once again. (And hope it doesn’t return…it smells BAD! The cats think its musty mousy smell is VERY interesting, but I do not.)

Cat with Punk Rock

Mmm…smells good…

I’ll keep the details a little vague to protect the innocent. 🙂

Flashback to my club-going days: Jane, Julie and I were planning to see a former member of one of our favorite bands perform an acoustic set. We were looking forward to seeing him because the band had been broken up for while and we missed them. I don’t think he knew that I had received a phone call a few days before asking if I was coming. His friend and I had once had acknowledged but unconsummated feelings for each other. I didn’t want to be “the other woman” and he always seemed to have a girlfriend. For a long time I had held out hope that when he was done “playing the field” that we’d get together. Not sure how long it had been at that point since I had seen him, but was this the night? I started the night anticipating the reunion.

We got there a little early and our musician friend came over to chat before his set. Naturally the conversation included chit-chat on what his old bandmates and our mutual acquaintances were doing. He tossed a grenade without realizing it: his friend was engaged to be married! Julie and Jane looked at me…Luckily my face froze in a smile. I felt like it was obvious, but I guess it wasn’t, as he just kept on talking. When the smoke cleared, in walked the former “man of my dreams.” He came over and sat down next to me and Julie and Jane soon excused themselves saying they needed to get something at the store down the street.  I guess it was lucky that I already knew so I could give him my congratulations in a fairly convincing way. I even asked about some other guys he knew, making him think I might be after them!

Jane and Julie returned and said, “We saw this, and thought of you!” It was the Punk Rock! They didn’t have much choice at a Store 24, but it was the thought that counts. Somehow I got through the night without cracking, clutching my gift, knowing my friends understood and were with me. We walked back to the car after it was over; I touched the door handle and the tears poured down unstoppable. I cried the whole ride home.

A couple of weeks later, Jane bumped into the guy on the street. They stopped and talked for a few minutes. Apparently I put on a pretty convincing performance that night. He thought I didn’t care; she told him otherwise. He said he might write me a letter, but I never saw or heard from him again. As I moved on with my life, the Punk Rock did not come along. It reminded me of something I didn’t want to be reminded of, so I threw it away. But here it is like a bad penny…

But we are SO dramatic when we are young, aren’t we? Now it is just fodder for a blog post.

 



{June 25, 2014}   Gotta Love Grandmothers

Clippings

Clippings

The other day my mother and I were going over more boxes. (They are endless!) My paternal grandmother died years ago, but there are still boxes of stuff hanging around that were cleaned out of her house. My father never got a chance to sort through them before he passed away. My mother is determined to dig into the sheds and get through them during the summer months. (It’s easier emotionally than going through my father’s stuff or her own…besides, this stuff is OLD and smelly and she can do it outside.)

My grandmother was a clipper, especially as her memory started to go and she stayed inside all the time. She clipped out recipes, she clipped out poems, she clipped out news stories. There are many boxes just full of yellowed newspaper clippings. Why don’t we just toss them you might ask? Well, here’s a perfect example of why we don’t.

In one box my mother found an old Reader’s Digest envelope labeled in my grandmother’s neat writing: All Susan’s Clippings.

My grandmother had cut out the articles published in the local newspaper for every time I made the honor roll or appeared in the school play. They were tucked into my high school graduation program. Her efforts were touching enough, but I found a treasure in there.

I mentioned in previous posts that the first poem I ever had published was in the editorial section of The Boston Globe. I had just turned 16 at the time, so even though it is a “silly” poem, I’m still proud of it. But I didn’t have a copy. I’m sure I kept one at the time, but it was easily misplaced over the course of many moves and 40 years. Bless my grandmother…there was a copy in her little envelope! Nobody but a diehard Red Sox fan would probably understand it, but here it is…

Red Sox Poem

My First Published Poem



{March 20, 2014}   The Pit Man

The Pit Man with his TruckThe Pit Man

The rumbling truck sound

sent us running on little girl legs,

between gushing giggles:

“The Pit Man’s Here!”

Funny how things turn up when the time is right.

I’ve been thinking about writing about the man I called, “The Pit Man” for years. I had started a poem that was never finished (see above). Then, over the weekend, my brother and I were back to sorting through boxes of old stuff at my mother’s. My brother found this solitary picture in a box of random stuff. He pulled it out and said, “Hey, is this the Pit Man?” I snatched it out of his hand excitedly and showed it to my mother. “Yes,” said my mother, “That’s him!”

When I was a child, my grandfather owned 18+ acres of land next to where we lived. He had owned the land our house was built on also, but gifted/sold it to my parents to start their family. The rest of the land was next to and behind our house and was leased out to a sand and gravel company. My parents ended up building their “retirement” home where the driveway to the gravel pit was. fifty years later the remnants of the chain are incorporated into the tree, and the rusty old cable is still coiled on the ground.

Chain incorporated into tree

Nature Devouring History

rusty cable

History’s Remnants

The arrival of “The Pit Man” was akin to a trip to the zoo for two five-year-old girls looking for something to relieve the boredom. He didn’t come every day, only when somebody ordered gravel, so his arrival was unpredictable and exciting. He would have to stop the truck in driveway to unlock the chain that protected it from unauthorized visitors. That gave us time to run over and greet him. He would always smile and spend a couple of minutes talking to us before proceeding with his work.

My memory is of a “James Dean” character: handsome, trim and tanned. The man shown in this picture resembles my memory that way Barrack Obama resembles Denzel Washington…NOT! I remember him in the heat of summer in a t-shirt: I remember staring at the tattoo on his sweaty arm while he smoked during a cigarette break…exotic! He didn’t speak like us. He spoke slowly; he said his “R’s”!  A  child’s first crush on an adult is a memorable life event. Funny how different our memories can be from reality, isn’t it?

Nowadays a mother would have to be wary of her daughter being around such a man; there seem to be so many brazenly bad people ready to hurt children. But back then, it was a different world. It was a small town; my parents knew him. (Funny that they even had a picture of him!) Finding it gave my mother the opportunity to tell me what she knew. His name was Lloyd; he was originally from the Ozarks in Arkansas. She doesn’t remember why he ended up in New England — that would have been a big move back then when people were less likely to move so far from where they grew up, but it was likely economics or because of a marriage. She said he would often speak of his birthplace with affection and wistfulness, and he hoped to get back there someday. He never did; he died quietly in our small town. But he is remembered fondly…

Maybe I am meant to finish the poem…my tribute to what he meant to a small-town five-year-old girl.



{November 25, 2013}   Daily Prompt: Close Call

Get Smart, Don Adams

It was that close…

The Daily Prompt topic for today is Close Call. It is beyond rare for me to post twice in one week, let alone twice in one day, but I couldn’t resist this topic.

Back when I was posting my alphabet of Boston Bands, I mentioned my closest friends at the time, Jane and Eric. Unfortunately for Jane and Eric, they were both present for my close call, which was actually a series of three close calls (you know how things come in “three’s”…these three incidents happened within a two-week span). The first one was the scariest, the last one was the closest.

Eric and I were coming home in the AM hours from a nightclub trip into the city to see a band. I was driving my Datsun and Eric was in the passenger seat. We were riding in the middle lane of the so-called Expressway, when the person in front of me put on his brakes for seemingly no reason. Irritated and tired, and probably in the middle of conversation with Eric, I quickly switched to the left lane to pass the unpredictable vehicle in front of me. But the lane wasn’t empty…I had seconds to realize that there was a car horizontally blocking my lane! Eric saw it at the same time and yelled, “Watch out!”

I could only react (thank goodness my “unpredictable” friend had stopped). Without checking my right mirror, I swerved over to avoid the car…luckily there was no one there. But that wasn’t the end of it…there were cars scattered across the road in front of us like toys in a playroom. I couldn’t stop…there was no time. I turned the wheel, this way, that way, this way, as if it were an obstacle course and suddenly…the road was clear and empty in front of us. I noticed my heart pounding and that I had held my breath. Eric said, “Like…I felt like we were in Starsky and Hutch!” We both exhaled hard…and began to laugh nervously, then harder and louder with relief. In between the laughter Eric said, “I’ll never be afraid to ride with you after that!”

A few days later, I was alone, again driving home late on the Expressway. I could see car lights coming toward me; I was puzzled…they seemed too close to be on the other side of the divided highway. As they came closer I realized they were on my side of the road! I pulled over to the farthest right lane as they zoomed past me, the middle lane between us. Nothing like what Eric and I had recently experienced, but I thought, how weird to encounter crazy driving on the Expressway twice in one week. Little did I know there was one more close call to come, not on the Expressway and not late at night, but very close to home.

This time Jane was in the front passenger seat and Eric was in the back. I’m not sure where we were coming from, but I think it might have been the movies. It was dark, but not late. Jane was turned around in her seat, talking to Eric and laughing (as usual). We were on a main road with a double line: one lane of traffic on each side of the lines going in opposite directions. Headlights were coming toward me…I thought maybe someone was playing chicken with me…I didn’t move right away, thinking they would cut back to their side of the road at any moment. But they were getting close and they weren’t moving; I started to get frightened. Jane turned around just in time to see the headlights directly in front of us and let out a scream worthy of a scary movie. My instincts finally kicked in and without wondering what was on my right, I pulled the car off the road. I was shaking; Jane was repeating, “Oh my God!” Yet…I had heard something.

There was a gas station up ahead so I pulled up the road and got out to look at my car. There was just a hole in the back quarter where my parking light used to be. The other car had skimmed us close enough to rip it right out without a dent or a scratch. You can’t get much closer than that.

This time I was shaking and felt nauseous. Enough was enough! We sat in the parking lot until we all calmed down to go home. This happened long before cell phones so there was no question of calling the police to warn them. I prayed for whoever was down the road and hoped no one was hurt or killed. As this was my third close call in two weeks, I hoped the “spell” was now over and we were safe…and we were.



{August 9, 2013}   Daily Prompt: Smell you later

shade flowers

Lily of the Valley

This Daily Prompt took me back to a springtime walk and the beautiful memories of my grandmother that came to me that day. The memories were brought on by the sight and smell of lilies of the valley at the side of the road. The sweet smell of the delicate bells flirting amid the dramatically curving leaves brought her back to me. It’s not what you might think — it’s not that she wore sweet “old lady” perfume that smelled like these flowers; her shady yard was abundant with them.

She and my grandfather built their colonial house on a lot covered with tall pines; there aren’t that many flowers that can grow in that type of shade, but lily of the valleys thrive in such a spot. She and my grandfather must have liked the pines because they didn’t cut them down to make the yard sunnier. (The people who bought and renovated her house after she died cut down most of the trees and completely transformed the lot and the house, leaving her old yard and house only a memory.) One whole side of her driveway was a swath of lilies of the valley; when we would pull in the driveway for a springtime visit, we would always pause to breathe in their sweet smell before going into the dark, cluttered house.

She must have been trying to reach me from beyond that day: hours later I was at my parents house with my younger brother.  We unearthed a box of games in the back of one of our sheds of “stuff.”  The shed is full of boxes that were moved out of my grandmother’s house when she passed away. My father intended to go through the shed himself, but he passed away before he could get it done. Now it is a chore for those left behind.

The games also brought back more good memories of my grandmother: When we grandchildren were young, we took turns staying at her house for the weekend. She kept a lot of games there for our entertainment when we stayed over, some of them games my father had as a child. They were quite old, but “new” and “special” toys to us. We used to fight over whose turn it was to stay over. When you live in a small house full of many children, you long for more space and quiet and the concentrated attention of a grandparent. She made us feel special.

Those were the days…



{February 23, 2013}   Book “Stories”

After reading a comment by Annina on my last blog on Book Care and a comment by Lingering Visions on another blog, I felt inspired to tell the “stories” of a couple of my books.

First of all, I’m a saver. (I prefer that term to “horder” or “pack rat.”) I love meeting people and consider myself blessed by all the wonderful people I have met in my life. But, as we all know, acquaintances come and go; saving things they gave me or wrote to me helps me remember them and their role in my life, however brief. I’m very aware, though, that a lot of this will be lost someday when my memory (and my body) is no more, and someone combs through and discards my belongings. I don’t mean to sound morbid, but it is reality.

So…I’m starting to allow some of my books to tell their own story. Here’s a couple of examples of what I mean.

books, God Among the ShakersA one-time co-worker and friend wrote a book about The Shakers. We lost touch when she moved out of state. While going through some old stuff, I found a photocopied review of  her book, as well as a promotional card on which she had jotted a note to me. Instead of throwing these things out, I put them in the back of the book. As I continue to sort through my papers and saved items, I will find other things and add them (I know I have photos, cards, etc.) If I never tell anyone the story of our relationship, I hope someday that someone finds the “treasures” in the book and is interested in the story behind it.

John Adams, David McCulloughAnother book with a story? I have an autographed copy of “John Adams” by David McCullough. When the book came out, McCullough was reading from it at a nearby charity event. My employer’s president had purchased a whole table of tickets to the event. He was not able to attend, but he gave the tickets to our company librarian to distribute. The librarian thought the company book club members were the logical choice to receive the tickets; I was one of the lucky ones! Each table had one autographed copy of the book. At the event, a photographer took pictures of the attendees at each table, trying to sell the photographs. I did not buy a picture, but I have a xerox copy of our photo. I came across it in some papers and put it in the back of the book, along with a the ticket and brochure about the event.

The story is there if someone wants to piece the items together and read the clues. How about you? Do any of your books tell their own story?



{September 9, 2011}   September 11th: Thoughts and a Poem

Over the past few days I have seen many inspiring people on television telling their stories (Lauren Manning for one), and I have had many conversations with new acquaintances (of the “Where were you?” variety).  The media is making sure it is uppermost in our minds.

My husband read an article the other day about the results of a survey regarding what stood out for people in the last 10 years.  The article reported that twice as many people surveyed said that the thing that affected them the most was the recession vs. the terrorists’ attack on the World Trade Center.  It is important that we try to revisit the solidarity we felt after the incident, as opposed to the divisiveness we feel now due to the economic conditions and the behavior of the politicians in Washington.

To that end, I dug out a poem I wrote on the one-year anniversary of the event.

9/11 Anniversary

It’s a year later

yet the wound is still fresh–

The fiery airplane-shaped gash

in the sleek shiny towers

that crumbled them like crackers;

a gash mimicked in our hearts,

seared into our psyche

like a brand,

changing us,

claiming us as Americans–

Forever beholden

to our heroes,

those who unwittingly flew

into our history’s darkest hours

and those who fought

through the blackness to save them.

Afterwards

the smoke

tried to smotherManhattan,

And the soot coated our lives

And the blue sky elsewhere

was an empty silent hole

we could never quite

climb out of.

Right after IT happened I bought the DVD, “The Concert for New York City.” To this day, my husband and I have not watched it.  For years we felt too emotional, too raw; and we were lucky people, people who did not directly know anyone who had lost their life.

Now that 10 years have gone by, my husband said he might be ready.  It is easier now to look at it in the context of history, honor those who died without fresh anger, and try to concentrate on the courageous life-affirming stories the tragedy produced.




As adults we are responsible for our food choices and most of us know which foods are considered “bad” or unhealthy choices: buttery, fatty items full of sugar and preservatives.  Ah, the days when I could regularly eat donuts or hostess snack cakes and not gain an ounce; back then we weren’t bombarded with knowledge of the content or calories of these “treats.”  That was a LOONNG time ago.

Every once in a while I make the choice to feel like a kid, and I allow myself to have a yodel, a ring ding, or a Twinkie.  The experience is a trip back to my childhood with each bite.

My husband and I recently bought a box of Honey Smacks cereal because it was on sale and we had a coupon.  In order to balance the guilt I felt about eating a bowl of it, I put corn flakes on the bottom.  But when I took the first bite….Whoosh!  I was taken back to childhood trips driving across the country in our car/van to visit relatives.  One of the most exciting things about the trip for me was that my mother would buy the small variety pack cereals.  Once in the car with the outside plastic ripped open, we kids would dive in to grab the “special” sugar cereals, like Sugar Smacks or Frosted Flakes that my mother almost never bought in the big box.  It helped make the trips special.

Variety Pack Cereals

There are some things I almost never eat anymore, because I’ve lost my taste for them, like ice cream sandwiches.  I ate one for lunch almost every day in junior high because I didn’t like the hot lunches.  I eventually got to the point that I felt nauseous just looking at one.  I used to eat a lot of ice cream in general; when I was in my late teens I would eat a banana split or Jim Dandy Sundae from Friendly’s for lunch or dinner.  I don’t think I’ve had one since.  I rarely have ice cream now because my teeth are too sensitive, which negates the pleasure of any good memories that may come from eating it.

Another old favorite of mine is popcorn; it always reminds me of when I worked at the movie theater.  I used to go home smelling like the butter-colored “lard” substance we would squirt on the top.  It definitely made me nauseous after a while.  Again it was many years before I could stomach eating it again.  My husband hates the smell of microwave popcorn, and eating too much of it at work made me pack on the pounds a few years ago, so the only time I have it now is home-made on the stove, with a small amount of real melted butter on top, which is a real treat.

As adults we know “moderation” is the key: it is okay to eat these “bad” foods every once in a while and enjoy where it takes us without guilt.



et cetera
%d bloggers like this: