Saturday, July 11, 2020

Gazing at the Windwisps

Gazing at the Windwisps


Tornadoes of blackbirds twist down

to purple clay,

touching bare fields

of dry paper stalks.


Kansas dirt, in my memory,

is always brown. 

Brown like Grandpa’s garden,

about the size of a card table.


A Southern Baptist preacher,

he would have never played cards,

but he must've planted

strawberries, because I was delighted to

swallow their bitter descendants

for summers afterward.


The night my mother

drove to Harrisburg

to find me,

she made me dig up dirt

with an old lunch spoon

from the car.


In the night’s stealth

I unburied some soil

into a juice bottle.

Grandpa wanted to be buried

in Pennsylvania soil, she said.

So we would bury some with him.


Now he walks among strawberries

the likes I’ve never seen.

I wrote this in circa 2002 when I first set out to write a book of poetry. It was finally published in this final form in  "Tea with Alice" in 2019 a book of poems dedicated to my grandparents, but first in Nantucket River Review in 2015. I worked on this set of seven poems for 20 years and finally turned it into a whole book. For a while, I considered calling it the Purple Clay chapbook because of the funny color of the soil, quite beautiful, in that area of PA. I also called it "For A Place." But finally settled on "Tea with Alice." I rephrased the ending to have the word strawberries because of the Wyandotte Tribe tradition of using this expression for heaven. I always associated my grandfather with strawberries. And my grandparents worked and lived in Wyandotte county Kansas for decades. 

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