it’s so easy

dawn in the mountains - you are blessed
it's so easy

it’s so easy to lose it 
without noticing, your attention 
driven to inattention by jobs and bills 
parents and children

the heat slowly rising
-- just another frog in the pan
then suddenly -- you’re old 

you notice the stars
have grown dim, the days
seem shorter, damp and cold
and all of your poems 

now speak of loss

until one morning 
you wake before dawn to the sound 
of birds singing in the darkness 
and after all this time 

right there it is

you almost don’t recognize it 
yet from a deeper place 
you do what you once might have done 

and rise 

to walk barefoot over the wet grass
to feel the cool breeze on your still-warm skin
to lift your weary eyes to the first soft colors 
    of dawn

and you know, once again 
what you certainly always have known 

that here 
   rises the luminous face of the ecstatic child

that here rises joy 

that here, after so very long 
    rises once again 
    the all-redeeming grace of wonder
    
and for one more glorious, completely ordinary day

you are blessed

A Mother’s Love, a Son’s Regrets – Fourth of the Lineage Poems

A Mother’s Love, A Son’s Regret. Looking back, it’s clear that I’ve written more about my father than I ever did about my mother. Fathers and sons I suppose. But she was also the quieter, smaller one of the two. I always had the sense that she chose to hold herself close, always to defer.

September 11, 2001

We drove her from Florida to Chicago on September 11, 2001. The world had suddenly erupted in fire and all flights had been cancelled. We convinced Hertz to give us a van and we drove for three days across a silent, empty America. Her dementia was pretty bad by that point, and she repeated over and over and over, “Where am I going?” “Why do I need to go?” I didn’t have a good answer then, and I guess I don’t now.

A Mother’s Love, a Son’s Regrets

Margaret Ruth lived in a nursing home in Chicago from 2001 until her death in 2004 from simple old age. I’ve posted before (link immediately below) about my sadness that I failed to attend properly the end of her life, allowing her to die alone in the night when it was pretty clear that it was her time.

Here’s a link to “That I Would do Betterhttps://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2020/05/10/that-i-would-do-better-poetry-poem-mother-regrets-mothersday/

Margaret Ruth, age four on the far right, 1921

I own that regret. But there’s also the regret of perhaps never having really known her. So here are two pieces that speak to missing the life of one who loved and raised me. Perhaps I could only see this as I creep into my older years myself. First, the mystery of seeing off one who once had been the entire world.

When the World is Lost Forever

childish things


we stood in a circle around the grave
some read poems while some 
chose silence. the funeral director

placed her ashes in the ground
while the redwing blackbirds sang 
among the corn. we'd always assumed

that she could fly, but then we
were only children, and eager to cling
to childish things


A Mother’s Love, a Son’s Regrets

And second, upon seeing her in the nursing home, a shadow of who she’d once been and wondering if (or perhaps knowing) we’d missed something essential over all those years.

margaret ruth

old woman, what have you done with her?
she was here when I last looked. now 
there's only you, a remnant, your mind 
approaching the capacity of experience 
cycling back upon itself, the tape skipping, catching 
rewinding as we speak. your face has been chiseled, 
deep lines cut into spotted flesh surrounding pools 
of sadness in your eyes. 
                                        
I can see into the depths 
of that water -- here rest the old ones 
in images black and brown, a diminishing succession 
of farmers’ wives standing resolute at the arms 
of sitting dead husbands. here are young brides 
with radical curls, high collars and narrow waists 
holding round-faced war-babies smiling at the camera. 
here is a mother reading soft words to soft children 
in light fading into dreams—ah Margaret Ruth 
we were for each other 
and we never really knew


The author at age one with his Mother Margaret Ruth, 1958

Here’s the link to first Lineage Poem – A Joyful Noise https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/

Here’s the link to the second Lineage Poem – One the Way to Heaven, Over Ohio https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/16/on-the-way-to-heaven-2nd-lineage-poem-over-ohio/

Here’s the link to the third Lineage Poem – Welcomed by the Land, Redwing Blackbirds https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/24/a-father-returns-home-welcomed-by-the-land/

For more poems speaking to mothers and motherhood, click here: https://www.poetry.com/psearch/mothers

All Poems, Text and Images are © 2022 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

On the Way to Heaven, 2nd Lineage Poem: Over Ohio

the author with “Big Al” in Detroit in 1963

On the Way to Heaven, 2nd Lineage Poem: Over Ohio My father died of lung cancer in Florida in 1986. Always an angry man, he was supremely bitter about his illness, feeling like he’d been robbed of the retirement due a lifetime of work. At the time, I was buried in my own workaholic haze in Chicago, flying down on weekends to see him, then going straight back to the office when I got back North.

He was in hospice when I got word that the end was near, and was in a coma by the time I arrived. This poem tells the story of a real conversation, one I’ll obviously never forget. He was a hard man who was hard on his boys. As I enter my own older years, I resent the hardness less and less, and miss him more and more. I’d love to be able to talk with him one more time.

Here’s the link to the first Lineage Poem : A Joyful Noise – Root Music of the Heartlandhttps://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/

Over Ohio

my mother called on Friday
to let me know his time was near
that I needed to come now.

he was not an easy man
either to me or to my brother
or to himself. my mother, 

simple loyal and kind was spared this,
or so I hope. he’d been in a coma 
for days when I went to sit with him

through the night, his cancer-eaten body
rattling its ragged breaths
in the pale blue light of the monitors.

unable to sleep, I watched him breath in
the darkness, then just before dawn
he woke and wanted to talk.

I told him he was dying
as if he didn’t already know.
and he asked me how much money I made 

(so he’d know, he said, if I’d be safe)
then apologized for smacking us boys,
and I told him it was alright

even if it really wasn’t. 
I left when he drifted back into sleep
or wherever it was he’d been waiting,

and caught the early morning 
flight for home. he died 
while I was 30,000 feet over Ohio.

sometimes I wonder – 
at that moment, which one of us
was closest to heaven?

© 2022 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

Big Al on the driveway in Detroit, 1963

And here’s a link to more poems about fathers from the Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/collections/101752/poems-about-fathers

A Joyful Noise- Root Music of the Heartland

siting on hard pews and harder teachings

The end of the year always turns my thoughts to family, lineage and those who came before. A Joyful Noise- Root Music of the Heartland – the first in a series of “lineage poems,” words of origin and reflection, of receiving and giving. My parents, both born in the earliest part of the twentieth century (1915 and 1917,) met in a no-stoplight farm town in northwest Ohio. Bred of simple stock, firm in their protestant faith, the kind of belief that’s simply assumed, stitched into the fabric of a life.

Root Music

on my days alone, or late
when the day’s light is going 
I can often hear their voices 

the thin black line of the old songs 
wavering like smoke above the fields 
the sad soul songs of simple white churches 
 
I can see old white women, the knotted hands 
of hard lives passed in good work
of cold mornings and long days 

I can see old men bent stiff into their one black suit 
restless children, sitting on hard pews 
and harder teachings

I was raised by voices 
planted in the flat black dirt of Ohio 
the granges and barns of a world expired 

now, when the sun has worn itself out 
and the heat of the land begins to fade
I like to sit and listen as darkness falls 

listen to the birds settling home
listen for the hymns as they begin to rise 
from the land 

listen to my own jagged life 
beginning to round

© 2022 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com
the first in a series of “lineage poems,” words of origin and reflection, of receiving and giving

Final African Wildlife Photography Collection- Zambia 2021

Third of three collections of African wildlife photos from last October, this time in Zambia along the Lower Zambezi River. A glorious place rich with wildlife and perhaps just a touch less traveled than the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

Click here for the slideshow on jfinkimages.com: https://www.jfinkimages.com/p780763266#hdf04dcf9

Here are the prior two collection links

https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2021/11/30/new-photo-collection-botswana-2021-part-1/

https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2021/12/08/african-wildlife-photo-collection-botswana-part-2-okavango-delta

a brilliant day

 

V8.4984

 

a brilliant day

mountains, flowers, lakes

 

then a red truck pulls out blind

 

no time for thought,

tires screaming on hot blacktop,

the car sliding, too fast, too fast,

no room

 

a white face in the window

a man turning, surprised

 

we bear down, burning fifty

to zero in thirty feet and somehow

we slide right,

rock to a stop

just

short

 

the whole thing flashes faster than thought

 

the face glares at me,

slams his truck across traffic

and disappears

 

we look at each other

seemingly fine

no harm, no foul?

 

driving home, my right arm

shakes like current

sizzling in a frayed wire

 

in the dark garage

I close my eyes,

the hot engine ticking down in silence

 

 

our lives continue

 

 

© 2020 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

beyond reason

IMG_7193-2

 

beyond reason

 

the arthritic fingers of winter are relentless,

crushing into ice in the dark

all that had dared to soften

in the light of lengthening day.

 

pain and release, punishment

and care — each

are necessary.

 

we could never have designed this,

these alternating forces shaping the hands

that sculpt this world

 

into a beauty beyond intellect

 

into a heaven beyond reason.

 

 

© 2020 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

 

laughter and tears

oldbones

 

laughter and tears

 

we were once shiny, undented.

had baby after baby with limitless

perfect futures. we had answers, speed

and never enough time. we

were accelerating. last night

fall came to this mountain,

the face of the grey man

peering through the glass. this morning

we sit beneath a weakening sun

the leaves blowing about our feet

like so many small broken things.

your hand is warm in mine, and just so

am I blessed — so little survives

beyond laughter and tears.

darkness falls.

the trees across the river

draw down their blood in silence,

brace themselves for winter.

 

© 2019 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

 

 

shining, brilliant, bright and free

we lost a friend this week, Wendy Chioji, who died after a long battle with cancer. She modeled how to approach the end with humor, courage and grace. This was written on the morning I heard of her passing.  For Wendy….

sunset yosemite valley 1840-2

 

shining, brilliant, bright and free

 

she died last night, which of course

is impossible, her eyes, that laugh

and, of course, her smile.

there’s a shadow-shaped hole

in the sun this morning – I close my eyes

and imagine her nearing the end

growing smaller as the tumors

tip the balance. can see her drawing

each difficult breath, shallowing, thinning

into shadow. can see her turning

to face a light only she can see.

can see her smile, of course, see her draw

one long unfettered breath, see her

shimmering now into light, becoming wind

rising through the bright leaves of autumn

like a star, like a smile, like a season

unto herself — shining, brilliant, bright

and free.

 

© 2019 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com