Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Old Men Talking \ The Bitter Herbs Of Spring

Alan: Growing up in a family of four brothers, suddenly losing the youngest left the rest of us adrift on a sea of what-ifs and never-will-be’s, incomplete futures and ever-questioned pasts.

Old Men Talking
                                      In memoriam, DLB

Under the ramada the old men sit,
in the shade, holding tall drinks.
Wearing broad-brimmed hats, they gather
each hot, still morning, clicking the ice and sipping
while the children dance in and out of the shade and sun –
the grandchildren or great-grandchildren, grand-nieces and -nephews
or great-grand-nieces and great-grand-nephews, it does not matter.
The children play; the men sip their drinks and talk.

In the shade of the ramada, gray-green in the deeper shade
of the great paloverde, the men look out
at the dusty heat and blink.  They talk quietly,
with pauses, with many relaxed silences,
finishing each others' thoughts,
nodding at the start of some old story
that may or may not be concluded.

I envision and envy us as these ancients,
creviced as the garden walls which surround the ramada.
We have long since transferred our faith to the young,
retreated to the telling and re-telling of
old stories.  Under the ramada
that you built, one person is missing
and that is the builder, which is why
however I think this or want it, the tales
are always yours.  We are left living your stories
in ways none of us could have foreseen or imagined.

Nancy: I often wonder how many Americans eat the foods of my early childhood.  My mother and grandmother ate the coarse corncakes and dandelion greens dressed in hot vinegar and appeared to like them.  If I ate one corncake and the greens, I might get a spoonful of molasses on the second cake.

The Bitter Herbs Of Spring

I reject the bitter herbs of spring,
the greens from Granny's basket,
ragged leaves dressed in hot vinegar.

Not mesclun, no, not oils from some
named grove, not raspberry vinaigrette.
Sharp toothed first green of the meadow.

I learned how to dig.  I learned mother
of vinegar.  I learned how to temper
bitter with corncakes fried in saved fats.

But then, when I dug alongside
Granny, when I crawled on stubble or
old meadow and dug . . . . .

then is not now.  Now that I am as
old as Methuselah, now that my no
is my no, I reject the bitter herbs of spring!

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