VOUS SOUVENIR VOTRE MERE!
You remember your mother!
Note to My Father After All These Years
Today I spend money. Doodad this, doodad that
in a town in the sun on the border. I sit
outdoors with my doodad dog
at the coffee shop. Time passes.
A man casts a shadow across my latte,
asks if he can borrow my lighter for a minute.
I have none but he talks to me anyway,
generous with conversation,
his tattooed hands giving my dog some
good attention. I can't see his eyes,
only the dark of his sunglasses. His unlit cigarette
bobs in his lips as he talks. This,
or something, reminds me of you. He says
the people here are nice. He loves it here,
says it's way better than the big city; it' s all
money anyways; every time he left the house
it was forty bucks. He sees someone
across the street, waves his arm,
shouts: Jack, I'm free!
He rises. He's gone.
"Note to My Father After All These Years" by Marge Saiser, from Losing the Ring in the River. © University of New Mexico Press, 2013
I ride with Dad's brother, Uncle Meredith
at an early mini-car track; note different expressions.
It was everywhere in my childhood: in restaurants,
on buses or planes. The teacher's lounge looked like
smoking, and walking in her house was like diving
in a dark pond. Adults were dimly lit: they carried
matches in their pockets as if they might need fire
to be smoked in a garden thick with summer flowers.
I'm speaking of moods: an old country store where
my grandfather met friends and everyone spoke
behind a veil of smoke. (My Uncle Bill preferred
fragrant cigars; I can still smell his postal jacket ...)
He had time to tell stories because he took breaks
and there was something to do with his hands.
My mother's bridge club gathered around tables
with ashtrays and secrets which are best revealed
beside fire. Even the fireplaces are gone: inefficient
and messy. We are healthier now and safer! We have
exercise and tests for breast or colon cancer. We have
helmets and car seats and smokeless coffee shops
where coffee has grown frothy and complex. The old
movies are so full of smoke that actors are hard to see
and they are often wrapped in smoking jackets, bent
over a piano or kiss. I miss the places smoke created.
I like the way people sat down for rest or pleasure
and spoke to other people, not phones, and the tiny fire
which is crimson and primitive and warm. How long
ago when humans found this spark of warmth and made
their first circle? What about smoke as words? Or the
pipes of peace? In grade school we learned how it rises
and how it can kill. We were taught to shove towels
under our closed doors: to stop, drop, and roll. We had
a plan to meet our family in the yard, the house behind
us alive with all we cannot put out...
"Smoke" by Faith Shearin, from The Empty House.
A tree in spring bloom outside the Odd Fellows
where smokers gather beneath,
excluded from Dave's Grill
or the Alanon Club next door.
(Chorus) Such beauty and ugliness
downtown residents get to see
all at the same time.
Imagine being one of those overhanging blossoms
doing its absent beautiful thing
while the noxious soot and smoke wafts upward
And imagine being those carefully-placed
when high-decibel motorcycles blast by at eventide:
VROOM VROOM VROOM
testing testosterone-y cajones
leather-crotches vs ephemeral tissues
Singing the song of the downtown
Two of our favorite people allow a photo
on the occasion of waitress Pam's last day
at Dave's, after 18 years of true service.
Learning of Pam's departure when we walked into
this restaurant across the street our heart became warped.
Jose, owner of Dave's and the aforementioned magician
at the short-order griddle, was taking it grim and quiet.
Pam recently moved out near Okauchee Lake and sought
and found waitressing part-time and nearer her home.
Dee and I are going to miss her hugely.
We wish her well! She will be kept informed
of things via the Raccoon.
My mother, Ruth Elies of Sun Prairie WI
had a Kodak Brownie box camera
wie kann ich, wenn ich
fy keine Flügel haben?
An inscription on a drum here now at the Odd Fellows
~ How can I fly, when I have no wings? ~
The story: Mom told me she was riding in the old family
jitney in the days before seat belts,
and the driver was quickly rolling along a dirt country road.
Ruthie (Mom) was standing up and leaning out
catching the breeze as we have often seen our pets do.
Ruth's mother admonished her in German,
Ruth be careful you don't fly out!
She answered, in German:
~ How can I fly, when I have no wings? ~
Flash forward now decades, and see me
painting the traditional German family
sayings on the rim of an elk-hide drum,
after doing a zeppelin etc.
Some of us believe that the music of a
once live animal-hide continues to sing forever.
This drum was loaned recently to Rev. John Helt of Colgate WI
to be played by him in a sermon. We are told it worked.
A Tree Grows on Barstow
Right now, if you drive up
and a couple blocks from the crest near
the Moor Baths
golf course, you will see a humongous
This used to be the Martin house. The Raccoon editor
a member of the
with Sally Martin.
That tree has grown and grown
and g-r-o-w-n, so that now
it dwarfs the small house
with its dormered attic.
The attic was made into a dormitory
for Sally and her many siblings.
They all slept in the
slanty room which seemed vast,
and sometimes, Sally says,
it was a bit chilly up there.
Yesterday (Thursday) I picked up
Joe Beringer to have one of our
Steaming Cup coffee sorties.
We were driving down
and Joe advised me to detour
a couple blocks to go past the Martin Magnolia tree.
Joe used to live near there and came
to cherish that pink-flowered tree.
In Mrs. Martin's later years, Joe as a 1st
Presbyterian Elder used to bring her
the Sacraments, and especially loved
doing so at the time of year
- spring - when that tree was in bloom.
We were smitten by the beauty yesterday,
but we only had our lower crustacean
cell camera with us, so we used that.
The scene deserved a better quality photo,
so today (Friday) we drove over
and took the attached pictures with the Nikon.
Trouble is, it rained heavily
during the night, and the petals,
many of them, lay on the ground.
Not to worry, though. The tree still
And that is so right, in that my friend, the same age
as me, is also still looking beautiful.
It was not a sunny day, unfortunately.
But on the bright side, Sally Martin
has brilliant children and grand-children.
IS how you look at it.