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 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 Better” https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2020/05/10/that-i-would-do-better-poetry-poem-mother-regrets-mothersday/
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
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 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 Heartland—https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/
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
And here’s a link to more poems about fathers from the Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/collections/101752/poems-about-fathers
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.
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
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
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,
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
the whole thing flashes faster than thought
the face glares at me,
slams his truck across traffic
we look at each other
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
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
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
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.
the trees across the river
draw down their blood in silence,
brace themselves for winter.
© 2019 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com
Just posted a new collection on jfinkimages.com, Serengeti Wildlife 2019 and added a soundtrack from a Maasi choir to the slideshow.
Here’s a link to the blog describing the gallery —
And here’s a link to the slideshow, Serengeti Wildlife 2019 (click the slideshow button in the upper right) —
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….
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
© 2019 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com