Tag Archives: Elegy

River Carver

13 Sep

A photograph from about a year before you died
shows you seated on a large stump hands folded,
shoulders slumped. My brother and I had walked
down from Grandma’s with my birthday camera
never meaning to capture how cancer had deprived you
of Helen years back, how grief had seized you

and your workshop had retired into shadow;
the gravers laid on benches among shavings
sharp reminders of your need to carve reliefs.
They had fit the artist’s hands—hands made
to wield them—and formed many works:
the shields of the apostles on oaken doors, the altar table,
the walnut reredos so beloved by the congregation.

Helen had ever been your blade and stone,
her keen spirit comfort to your war wounds,
but the unceasing waters of bereavement
whittled your bones and finally broke them
at the kitchen table where Grandma found you
gouged by your own hand and that dull revolver…

Once, while in the South Pacific, you had mailed
a thank you to my mom for photographs received
of her, a then months-old baby. Declaring love,
you promised her stories, mud pies, and the circus.
Your works deserve prominence, but you
were carving for an audience of folks along the river
in a town that would suffer many floods.
For Carrol Coolidge (1908-1980)

Advertisements

Cousin (In Memoriam)

20 Jul

for Jeffrey Eells, 1968-2001

Eight years of traffic have blurred the accident site
by the time I see your place at the cemetery.  I say
I didn’t know you had been buried close to Grandma
and your sister cries—she knew you like I never did.  

Gentle, easy going, made for downhill skiing,
you meant to finish college, were fluent in sarcasm,
and had a well of sadness you kept covered
with laughter that snapped like dry sticks.  As kids

we laughed like cousins at Grandma’s in the glen.
We played kick the can, took our places at the table,
passed the rolls, heard the stories being told,
then got back in the family cars again.  

    Today your sister is keeping her own well and,
for me, pulls back the lid.            (Did you ever
find someone to let in, someone to draw water with,
someone who could damp your dry pail with rest?)

Here I stand, a tree beside the streams she pours,
planted in the soil of her dreams.
    My bark is rough—see how green her grief!
My roots are scorched—freely is falling her relief.

Only Dog

24 Jun

As kids, we would put our hands inside
her toothy den; for us the molars were mild,
the incisors unwilling even to gentle dent
the soft butter of our skin.
She chewed a couple of neighborhood pets
and Dad had to put her on a run
until we moved outside of town.
There, with our Shepherd’s perked ears
and pointed nose always close by
my brother and I could explore fields
of curious cows, or trod a tangled wood. 
She would bark for joy in the driveway
when visitors arrived who sometimes
waited in their cars until we settled her.

In her waning days, Dad helped her
to get up steps, lifting her from behind. 
The day came he said, She’s in a lot of pain,
and lifted her into the bed of the pickup. 
We drove to town at dusk and dark
had fallen when the vet came out to us.
As if it had all been a dream,
she was gone
and we had started back toward home.       
        From beside him
there on the bench seat of the truck
I glanced up. Dad focused on the road
and cried.  We never had another dog. 
Dad’s words: It’s too hard.

Timber by Caleb Eells

1 Jun

It was the first day of Spring break, a Saturday.  My brother, my sister, and I were outside doing spring cleaning.  We went inside, tired, and grumpy. We were hungry and wanted lunch.  But when we went inside, we found something quite unexpected. My mom was sitting on the kitchen floor, and was crying hard.  The vacuum we had heard minutes before, wailing like a siren, now sat silently next to her looking mournful. That’s when my dad came in the room with the phone in his hand, and told us Grandpa (on my Dad’s side) had been in an accident, and had died.  I learned later that Grandpa had been out logging (cutting down trees) at another person’s house.  He had been cutting a tree that had entangled itself with another tree, so when the tree he was cutting fell, the top of the other tree came with it, and had hit him in his right temple, just below his helmet.  The person he had been working with said that the blow knocked him down, and then he curled up and didn’t move.  My Dad believes he had died right then. Gone.  In the blink of an eye.

My Grandma, Aunt, Uncle, and Cousins live in Vermont.  My Grandpa used to live there too.  Now he lives in heaven.  And, yes, I’m positive that my Grandpa is in heaven right now.  So anyway, the same day we got the phone call, we hurried to get to the airport and we flew to Vermont, taking one stop to switch planes in Washington D.C.  We arrived in VT around 12:30 and met my Uncle Cam and my cousin, Paul, there.  We drove back to their house without much conversation, and got there at about 1:00.  In the morning, we met their cute German Shepherd puppy, Maya.  Their cat, Daisy, didn’t like the new puppy, and stayed clear of it.  On April 15th, a Tuesday, it snowed about four inches.  My sister and I were happy about the new snow, while our cousins moaned about the fresh snow and how they wanted it to be spring.  My brother couldn’t have cared less about it.  Looking back, I too wish it hadn’t snowed considering the circumstances.  I think Grandma just needed it to be Spring.

The day after the snow, we had the calling hours (a time when people come and give their condolences to the relatives of the deceased person and to see the deceased person in the casket).  When we saw his body in the casket, my Aunt cried a lot.  The lump in my throat , which was as big as a watermelon, didn’t go down till I left the room.  The calling hours lasted about seven hours, but I left with my sister and younger cousin after about three hours.  A kind lady volunteered to take us home.  I noticed that people get a lot nicer when one of your family members die.  I guess it is just courtesy.  Or maybe it’s sympathy. Or maybe even empathy.

The memorial service was the next day, and the weather was sunny.  My Uncle, my Dad, my Mom, and my Aunt all went up and talked.  My Uncle did a wonderful speech, and my Dad read some poems.  One he had written, and one Grandpa had written.  My Aunt and my Mom read some poem-like-writings.  We sang some of Grandpa’s favorite songs, and two different pastors got up and talked.  The memorial service was really marvelous.

We finally left on April 20th,  Easter Sunday.  The flights went well, and we arrived home in time for dinner.  My Dad went up there again last week for the burial because the ground had been too muddy in April.  I’m glad my dad was able to go up again.  He was able to help with the work at Grandma’s house, and he was also there to comfort her. We will be going up to VT again in the Summer.  I will not be seeing my Grandpa ever again in VT, or even on Earth.  But I will see him later, in heaven.

by Caleb, age 12

Early Miscarriages

22 Feb

Death,
you are the enemy. You took two friends,
and if you can hold them you have seized the wind.
We weep for ones taken, and are as shaken
by bleak absence as by your uninvited presence.

At dinner, we sit around the table with living kin.
We pray. Then, with our eyes open to each others faces,
we linger over life in a womb; with two fingers
we make small guesses—No bigger than this? Yes!

Death, we do not want for grief,
but there is a Wing you may not reach beneath.
There your hand cannot grasp fragile forms
and your grip has ceased to close on even these
tiny
living human beings.

Elegy For An Uncle

30 Oct

Your second death, this.  The first you cheated—  
buried alive, then resurrected to describe
paralysis beneath a cave-in.

They dug you out.  But no hands reach you now;
your story is complete.  The tumor pressed you
down in ways no one could defeat

and I despise it.  You would have wanted
to assure me that you’re in a better place.
And I want that for you.  But here,

I fight the enemy of your absence.
I can’t get another handshake or hardy laugh.
There is no father, no husband,

no uncle who donned an apron and cooked
chicken halves on a giant barbecue
he had designed and welded,

no quick joke or story to bring a smile,
no soft voice—the sound of a Vermonter—asking,
Hey there, how you doin’?

I have an early memory: you on Grandma’s sofa
snoring loud.  I am only five or six
and a bit afraid of the great rasp.  

Now, remembering it, I hurt—God gave you
for my Uncle, I’ve known love from you, I miss you—
but I’m willing for the hurt to be good news.

                (for Stephen A. Kittredge, 1945-2009)