Bio Note: My father had a distinctive, and to me, a somewhat amusing way of composing his poems, as I observed as a child. He loved and admired many poets, among whom the poet William Carlos Williams was one of his favorites. Everyday is Father's Day, and the first two poems are dedicated to my father, who was a wonderful poet. Preserving his legacy is something which is near and dear to my heart.
The Black Bicycle
(After the William Carlos Williams poem ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’…only longer) For my father, who taught me how to ride my first bicycle. So much depends On a black bicycle Resting serenely against the overflowing petunias in the window boxes and the rain drenched cushions on the comfortable patio. The cushions are sun- dried now The cherry tomatoes will soon be red. I may lie down on the patio with a handkerchief over my eyes like my poet father did on his bed, and wait for words, Or dream of lines like his. In the garden of my childhood I sense his hands holding the bicycle Then the letting go Falling repeatedly. Finally Death took over, as it must do The permanence of the letting go. Now, life deals me different falls, As I watch the purple pansies With their faces upturned To meet the sun. I no longer ride bicycles. Without father, The balance is difficult, Yet, the poems of childhood Drift in and out In solid shapes. Sometimes, I sense His invisible hands Guiding my words and lines.
How Daddy Wrote His Poetry
Between puffs of a Menthol Cool cigarette Left to curl in the glass ashtray The folded handkerchief carefully placed on eyes He lay silently still for the Muse To bring him the lines. The delicately-crafted glasses Set aside on the cluttered desk The faithful typewriter in the centre The forgotten cheques for depositing Becoming bookmarks of a different kind The turtle shaped coin box for ‘loose change’ All forming a part of the familiar scene. In set rhythmic pattern He moved from bed to desk Writing words and lines On pieces of paper, blank or lined Whatever could be found Then back to the bed again. He breathed deeply. Or deep ‘breathely’ (His coined phrase) Perhaps invoking the Muse For the rest of the poem To take shape. Breathing gave pause to the poetic process. Pacing up and down the sparsely furnished room Reading the words aloud Inviting me in To be both audience and critic The ceremony completed. Daddy typed with two fingers On the old clickety typewriter The manuscript ready Delivered to willing or critical eyes. Daddy wrote often Into the early hours of the morning I would have to creep into the room Mouse-like, Cockroach quiet, Remove the handkerchief Turn off the light Tell him he must sleep It’s late, Daddy! Standing outside his room Until I heard the familiar click Of the old wooden latch I knew he’d get a few hours Of fulfilled slumber.
Author's Note: I wrote this poem as a tribute to the 19 children and 2 teachers who were senselessly gunned down in Uvalde, Texas. The tragedy touched me deeply as I have been a teacher myself and imagined the classroom to be a safe place. It has always been a second home to me.
—For the children killed in Robb Elementary School in Texas I want the willow tree to weep no more I want peace from shore to shore. Lines from my poem ‘Peace’ This day of sadness, All the willow trees of the world weep for nineteen children and two teachers Brightly burning candles snuffed out by insanity Families mourning sons and daughters Celebrations of graduations and wedding days Buried in too early graves. Not so long ago I stood in front of a group of elementary children in a Spanish class wearing sombreros dancing to the Mexican Hat Song. This is the stuff of childhood Toys and games, movies and friends. Instead, I hear a funeral dirge I see crosses with names of the dead I hear fathers and grandfathers weeping I weep with them, their stories, their memories Bubbly children, kind and loving Dreams to be teachers and lawyers, Could have been my own children. I become the teacher once again I have been through that drill for the imaginary intruder Hiding under a desk with the children, far from the windows in complete silence No coughing no breathing Behind a locked door. The earth cries It wants the children back to their beds with their teddy bears and blankets Fathers reading bedtime stories Mothers preparing warm milk. Children, I’m told, are a gift May it be the gift that keeps on giving. The willow trees weep This summer twenty-one flowers will not bloom.
©2022 Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca
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