Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dreams of a Savannah Boy

His nickname “Lord Ballew”
Suited his style and gentlemanly air
Selling turbines and generators
Things we kids could not figure
He was more Shakespeare than engineer

My father, tall and handsome
Hand in one pocket, joke well chosen
The whole table would laugh
His bucked teeth the only flaw
That made him just the boy next door

He was a man who loved Tchaikovsky
Segovia, Bellafonte, Dillard,
Gilbert & Sullivan, and Makeba
Who sang the lead in Pajama Game
Kismet and Damn Yankees

He taught me how to harmonize
How to jump in and catch the melody
Like a rope vine swing
And figure it out as I went along
Until standing in church we two

I used to watch him playing tennis
From my perch on the Silver's garage roof
With his white shirt untucked, sockless
Tennis shoes so big on his long, long legs
I rooted for him to win and then felt guilty when he did

Nobody had a chance playing against my Dad
The only time I beat him at chess,
He knew he had won
My Mom told him to let us win just once
But my seven card stud became ferocious

And the college boys paid my expenses that semester
Playing five-card draw in the student union
Putting on a bored, fatalistic face
It was my Daddy that made me realize
You could hold your breath with a flush

Listening to Rachmaninoff or Chopin
Or seeing a movie through his eyes
Side-glancing to see if he agreed with
Bogie, Grant or Stewart
It might be a word or a movement

Following my Daddy’s mind was
Easy riding with your arm on the sill
Feeling the breeze and reaching out
To brush the honeysuckle
On the side road to town

At the ball in my long gown
Appliqu├ęd with velvet leaves
He did the two-step with me
Just to give me a rest
From the sweaty men with their bouquets

Driving down to Tennessee
Showing us the Burma Shave signs
And the log cabins where the share croppers
Used to dwell
It was another world

My Daddy had seen everything
He never talked about the Philippines
Except to say he’d seen an elephant
And sometimes hint at mishaps
Other guys had had with local girls

He always had a ready story
About his Maryland lass
Who waited with impatience
For his return from the war
And then stuck by his side ever after

Daddy held my hand when I was sick
And danced through hell to fight my demons
Took me out to dinner
And met my eyes
With insight, seeing everything

I didn’t know until much later
Those piercing eyes were but a shield
For the tender heart beneath
A man can carry such love only so long
Until the force erupts in church or at an old movie

Nobody gave a hug like Dad
A hug that said, “I’ll love you forever
My sweet baby
You don’t have to worry
About a single thing.”

(First written April 26, 2009, edited 10/17/2014.
Dedicated to my father who passed away 9/17/2014.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


How do we parse these overlapping
Tectonic plates of relationships
That touch ever so gently
In the periphery of our consciousness
Surfacing in dreams to dance together
Figures normally unfamiliar
With each other

How can we be certain that each one
Receives its due consideration
That none are left behind, abandoned
To memory, slipping down as leaves
Into a pond in autumn
Of course, inevitably, or deliberately
Some will become invisible

Some have to go, with their unresolved conflicts
Ragged edges and pain
And others unfinished or ended too soon
Those we can release with more ease
We can say we learned something from them
Or they were not to be …
But some will remain

Like tattoos on the skin of our minds
A part of us, and more – a definition of our inner selves
If not the face we show the world
Those relationships have their own lives
Even when the person we knew is gone or demised
And over time, the edges are smoothed
The colors all fade, but there’s a silent voice
That can talk and answer questions

It’s a testimony to life’s grand design
That we can still be surprised
By the ping! of wisdom
From an old source
And, to be honest, you really can’t know
Which voice – if it’s one or a composite of many
We are so loosely braided into the carpet

I don’t claim these words are even mine
Whose thoughts am I thinking today?