Bio Note: After 30 years as editor and writer for several scholarly and trade publications, I drove a school bus for several years teaching high schoolers how to respond when an adult says good morning and first graders that it’s probably best they not lick the seat in front of them. Several poems have won awards from the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets and the Oregon Poetry Association. My collection The Sacred Monotony of Breath (2015) received an Edna Meudt Poetry Book Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers.
A Family Portrait
“So much that’s instructive begins with but.” Stephen Dunn, Degrees of Fidelity I was born to argue— with myself, therefore others. Or vice versa—see what I mean? As a child family dinner conversations the problem to be solved, resolved, stringy pressure cooker pot roast and boiled carrots taking the brunt of all those questions, quandaries left rotting on the table—eat what’s on the plate the word, the last word, the final word. I swallowed, hungry for more words, but (there it is, that disruptive conjunctive pause, meant discursive interpreted argumentative) offered only The Word: a 1950s Sunday morning ride to church, sepia-toned Rockwell portrait, two in the backseat, two in the front dressed in Sunday’s best wishing this first day were the last, nothing settled in the pew’s burnished silence. How shall we understand this tableau of four? Poor father wishing to awake but not arise, a Sunday morning nap after six days and nights of work, to rest on the day of rest—why, he might wonder, is God’s seventh our first? Only he, with reason and right to complain, which he does, all the way down Monroe Street, shifting in the pew, eyes drooping shut, his way of arguing with God. And mother, sweet sad mother, soprano lilt lifting hymns to heaven, brain cells even then devolving into childhood’s sludgy dreams: I wish to shout, no, Mother, no, return— Day 1 is Day 7—the calendar lies. Which leaves two in the back seat, Bill & Bob, alliterative siblings stirring the stew of their respective sibling placement, what they argue becoming who they become. The man in the pulpit commands believe. One says yes, the other but. Sixty years later, front seat empty, only two remain. Long distance conversations thicken the blood’s connections, drape memory’s flesh over the empty seats in front. Though, still, they sit on opposite sides of the seat, heads turned away to view the world they pretend is true, their hands rest on the empty space between, the ampersand by which they are joined.
A Question of Memory
“An inexplicable sorrow that has just the same character as an atmospheric front…” Olga Tokarczuk—Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead What is it to remember a moment that you vowed to remember a half century ago, a moment empty of content other than the slap slap tuck of a boy folding newspapers on the front porch, soap opera blues on the dark side of a screen door, behind which his future unfolds then…now that moment…this moment and everything in between?
©2022 Robert Nordstrom
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