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Posts Tagged ‘Susan Lefler’

 

 

[with 3 poems by Susan M. Lefler]

Forty-four years ago this month, Linda delivered our son Josh after an epic display of Lamaze prowess. We had celebrated Thanksgiving with friends; we suspect the sweet potato pie induced labor. We lived in Durham, NC, and her parents and mine plus all our family lived in Ohio, five hundred miles away. Ooh, how they wanted to get their hands on that baby boy. First grandchild on both sides, Linda and I both the oldest sibs.

I was just weeks away from my last day of med school at Duke. Benevolent powers granted me Christmas off and my Dad, as I recall, bought the tickets with a plane change in Pittsburgh. If you notice that current day lavatories have baby stations it’s probably because so many callers contacted the authorities after being grossed out by us changing poopy diapers on the main concourse.

We finally cinched ourselves in for the last leg. The flight attendant noticed us – curly brown locks, rosy cheeks, has anyone ever been so young? – and remarked, “You must be brother and sister!”

Then she saw the tiny well-blanketed bundle nuzzling Linda’s breast. “Ahhh,” she said, “I guess not.”
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Yesterday Linda and I got our COVID boosters at Walgreens. There was a moderate queue (Yay, Surry County, y’all go get them shots, OK?!). Waiting, masked, yawn, plenty long enough for Linda to forge friendship with the white-haired woman ahead of us and share a few chuckles. We were last in line when the pharmacist stuck her head out the door of the procedure room and called, “Griffins!”

I asked if we should come in together. She looked us over – hiking boots, matching gray pony tails, has anyone ever been together so long? – and said, “Yeah, if you really are together and it’s not just a coincidence that you both have the same last name.” The pharmacist never cracked a smile but I think she looked pleased when, after our needle jabs, Linda said she wished she could hug her.

Define long. In 1985 Linda and I figured we’d been “going together” longer than we hadn’t. In 1995 we calculated we’d lived in North Carolina half our lives. Are there any family stories we haven’t already told each other twice? Is it still likely a stranger would think we’re brother and sister?

When I look at Linda I see her father. When she speaks I hear her mother. What does a stranger see when they look at you? Your history is a cipher. Your thoughts inscrutable. Your desires a swirling mist. The most that stranger can know about you is how you respond to the next person in line. How you react to the person that hurts you.

 

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Midwinter Garden

While I stir the soup, my husband digs.
He’s building me a garden in the center
of the barren yard. He marks out paths
with careful edges, makes them long
and straight. Already he plans walls, a gate.

Mind you, nothing grows yet.

While he digs and scatters time
like seeds, he dreams the blooms
full as we were at the start
when gardens grew from us, opening
like Fuji mums released from the confines
of their nets. He leaves the center blank
for a fountain, for the pond, a waterfall . . .
he dreams big and works to prove
that we can look at frozen ground and see
the cold tight seed begin to break,
greening toward spring.

In case spring should come late
leaving the garden t its frozen fate,
I stir the soup.

Susan M. Lefler
all selections from Rendering the Bones, Wind Publications, © 2011 by Susan M. Lefler

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Susan Lefler is a native North Carolinian who lives in Brevard and has authored a photographic history of that area published by Arcadia Press. The three sections of her poetry collection Rendering the Bones delicately weave family heritage into a journey of moods, observations, trials – the longing we all have to find our way home. In the final section she cares for her parents as they decline through their last days. If we are to live in this world, we must all join her struggle through grief to discover meaning. To see, even in frozen ground, the cold tight seed begin to break.

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Moon Stick

I want a counting stick to count the moon,
one notch at a time to mark, one thousand
and eight moons since my father’s birth,
five wards, depending how you count,
each month rolled into years, each year
into the next until we couldn’t tell
that time had passed, but we could see
his energy sigh out of him, and I leaned in
to ask old Cowboy Death, astride his big-assed
horse with the sag in the middle like a nag
too worn for use: how wide is dying?
Or is it dry and thin? Is it round
like the blood moon that lifts
above the mountain, or narrow as a bone
and hard to penetrate?

I want to ask if he keeps company with those
he’s taken out, or do new prospects
occupy his time? I want to ask
how many moons he plans to let go by
until he takes my father up, slings
him over the back of that old horse,
and heads away, letting the last moon
slide behind the mountain as he goes.

Susan Lefler

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About Ashes

Ash Wednesday in the church, I listen
to the ancient words of dust and grief
punctuated with the hiss
of oxygen. Words crunch in my mouth
like little bones.

Slow bodies move forward
to the rail, kneel, submit
to ashes marked on skin, remembering
the palm green fronds, the bloom, the fire
that brought them here.

At home, I shovel ashes from the hearth
until I fill a scuttle full, the very one
my grandfather used to load coal
from the towering pile
next to the chickenyard, piece
by piece to keep the grate alive.

I load the remnants of dead trees
into a heap and haul them to the yard.
I’ll feed the lilacs with them.
They like ashes.

When the shovel lifts
for the last time, one spark
smolders still, telling the tale
once more of who we were,
of who we long to be, of what it means
to come awake, and waking
see.

Susan M. Lefler

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2014-06-30a Doughton Park Tree

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