Last week I told you about my cousin Bonnie and I included a poem of hers found upon an Internet site. Although “The Witch” is a provocative verse, I want to share my particular favorite.
In Wake the Unicorn, Bonnie includes a few poems about her parents – my Uncle Pete and Aunt Ida. My mother often told me of the loving, playful relationship shared by those two, and Bonnie captures some of that in the poem she wrote after her father’s death. Although she was an artist, I don’t think she could have painted a better picture of him had she used oils, pastels, or acrylics. Pen and ink and perfectly chosen words re-create Clarence Howe, also known as Pete or the …
He gave us all it took to get along,
Including bowls of laughter with the soup
And closets full of teasing till we cried.
He spoke too loud because he couldn’t hear
With an ear that was hurt when he picked a fight
With someone twice as big and just as drunk.
I never saw my mom get by his chair
And miss a friendly grab.
Her primness tabled, she would kiss him back.
His hair was mostly salted, partly black.
The caterpillar of his eyebrow
Humped above his spangle-damp brown eyes.
And he could almost flap his ears
Like they were hinged next to his head.
When he would flap in church,
Our dignity would suffer, Mom’s face would furrow.
For work he wore a red-plaid lumber-jacking shirt
And boots it was my job to lace
As it was his to brush and braid my hair.
And he would whisker-burn and sting my cheeks.
But how I loved that hurt and loved that man.
His rowdy life was like a rowdy day:
So busy that you get caught up with it,
Forgetting that the night will ever come.
Night was like his undetected fragile heart,
And like the night that came, my father died.
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