My wife and I recently moved from Minnesota, where we lived and taught for nearly thirty-seven years, to the Berkshires in Massachusetts. I am looking out my back window as I write this, where I can see a snowy yard and a stand of young pines, and beyond that a wetland, ringed by reeds. October Mountain overlooks this peaceful scene. My parents went to the Berkshires every year to swim and hike and attend classical music concerts at Tanglewood, so my new home is rich in memories about them.
Do not remember me
nor as the keeper of secrets
- Audre Lorde
Remember me as a voice
in the trees, oaks with thick,
gray trunks and rustling leaves.
Recall how we sat together
in the rain, soaking up
the grayness of clouds and mist.
Remember that warmth,
and how the earth turned
to mud beneath our feet.
I wish you could remember
me as a bird flitting from
branch to branch as the seasons
changed, as the last snows fell
and fell, and the world
disappeared behind a curtain of wind.
My mother walked a line that stretched
from her dreams of Auschwitz
to the boardwalk of Silverpoint beach.
She smiled in the sun and walked on wet sand
down the beach toward the little lighthouse
and a line of rocks jutting out into the sea.
Her footprints sank and filled with foam.
Her dead mother walked with her
She had a face and a head shorn of white hair,
but her mouth was gone, her throat,
her tongue and teeth.
After a while, her features faded to mist
and she became a woman made of smoke,
a memory on a train, pouring out of a chimney
in the barb wire and the stench.
My mother swam in the surf, or dog paddled
out a little way. She was afraid of the undertow,
of drowning in the deep, hard pull of the sea.
Gentle on the Earth
My father walked gently upon the earth.
He bobbed up and down on his legs.
I have his gait, the little bounce, the odd
movement of the head, as if it floated
on the waves. And now his white hair.
He was a holy fool,
and his voice was soft and kind.
He liked beer and fish and brains and tongue,
but not dessert.
He said my mother’s Sacher Torte was so dry
it made the dust come out of his ears.
He couldn’t use a tape recorder or drive a car.
When he spoke at parties, his German
smooth and mellifluous,
unlike the English that sat clotted on his tongue,
everybody laughed, the men with their low growls,
the women with their high voices lovely in his ear.
© 2018 Steve Klepetar
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