Where Wonder Lives

I bird-dog my way down to northern Louisiana, following a lead on a story near my grandfather's old stomping grounds. Four miles from Black Bayou, I roll the windows down, and I smell the humidity, the cypress sap, the sweet mud. There is Bartholomew Lake, just to the east. In the bones of an ancient cypress, anhinga perch. Spanish moss beards the limbs of the living trees. A truck runs too close to the shoulder of the highway, and I hear the duh-dum duh-dum of the "waker-uppers." I am seven again, riding shotgun in my grandfather's green chevy, feet dangling from the bench seat. I am holding a box of hot cinnamon rolls while my grandfather passes down his mastery of colorful language and his knowledge of the shape of a woman. My ears and cheeks redden. This world is a wardrobe to another time and place. Wonder lives there.

I cannot stop my car from careening into the Black Bayou entrance. I am pulled to the mud, to my kin, to the ghosts. On the banks, I stare into the water and see myself again. Now, with unveiled eyes.


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Remembering Sunrise (For Grandpa, Who is Gone)

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” ~Leonardo da Vinci Last week I slipped on a pair of flip-flops and walked into the dawn. The sun was peeking through the trees, and I stood in a little patch of fescue just beyond the compost pile. The fescue; the sweet, wet compost; the dew on my toes--these things reminded me of my Grandpa Ducky, though I cannot say why. Isn't memory an odd thing?

We wake to memories like grand epiphanies. Standing in the train station, or the grocery line, or rinsing our hair in the shower, memory happens as much to us as in us. It brings the smile hidden in the heart, the anger buried in the darker places of the soul, sometimes mourning from the place just behind the eyes. Remembrances are sometimes intentional, often not.

My Grandpa Ducky was larger than life, a Big Fish sort of a man. I remembered him last week standing in the fescue, and I wrote this poem. In full disclosure, the images in the poem are very real, but the phrasing from my grandpa is not. This poem, though, contains things he might have said, probably did say, surely must have said. I could tell you I remember them, but I don't. Or maybe I do. Sometimes memory and imagination are twins.

Too many people are afraid of poetry these days. A colleague told me yesterday, "I don't do poetry because I don't understand it." Hogwash. Today I'm painting a scene in words. Isn't that all poetry is? I'm painting it for my colleague and the rest of you don't-do-poetry types. Read the word painting below. Smell the boathouse. Hear the Jazz. See the sun. Meet my grandpa. He was a good man.


Remembering Sunrise (For Grandpa, Who is Gone)

This morning the sun came tromping, heading west, the promise of gold in its eyes, conjuring rainbows in dewey fescue patches.

There I remembered my grandfather, the smell of his boathouse, gasoline, naugahyde seats, cold gin, sweat. There I heard Miles and Johnny improvising on the record player powerd by fifty feet of orange extension cord, a lifeline to the white brick house heaving to sleep.

Evenings are for maintenance, for going back on expectations, but the mornings--yes--the mornings are for golden futures, for promises of rainbows on every blade of grass.

These are things he said or either might have said in a time, in a place.

Sleep child. Hoisting me, lying me on the boat bench. Sleep well. There I closed my eyes and woke to this morning.



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