Conan Doyle once wrote that “Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms.” In my case, the only art I’ve ever been halfway good at – writing – has a direct lineage, one which skipped over my grandfather (the soldier, the state trooper, the detective), my father (the athlete, the manager of all things), and his brothers (the policeman, the entrepreneur, and the traveler), and went directly to me and, thus far, only to me. There’s a glimmer of it in my younger cousin, but she’s a far better visual artist than a writer, so it’s found a slightly different expression in her. I never met my grandfather’s mother, but when I was younger (and just beginning to write) my grandmother, who liked to keep such things, gave me a sheaf of her poems. I was going to school in Maine. They’re housed in an off-white envelope, faded to softness; the delivery address, my home town’s community library, and the return address? Boston, Massachusetts, the area in which I’ve lived and worked for over 4 years now. Another clue, another coincidence between my great-grandmother’s life and my own. The only forms her poems take are twenty-some sheets of old paper on which her words have been carefully typewritten. Some have been drawn over in pencil, the words changed here and there. So, she worked in some of the same ways I do even now, I who insist, stubbornly, on hand-writing many of my early drafts. I want these to be around for a long time, so I’m putting them here and in a text file on my zip drive/the Google Drive cloud. The only date I can find on them is coming up in a different poem, but let me say for now that they’re 50+ years old! And the author’s name was Mildred Wilson Smith, a licensed schoolteacher, who primarily taught English and in her retirement wrote poetry, presumably because she enjoyed it a great deal.
Finally, before I get to the poem, Mildred left me with a quote by Hilaire Belloc (a Catholic novelist. Oh, and by the way, I used to work at the archival library which holds the majority of his manuscripts – that’s in Boston as well): “From… first beginning,/Out to the undiscovered ends/Here’s nothing worth the wear of winning/But laughter and the love of friends.” – Verses (1910) “Dedicatory Ode”
Today the sky hands low
A great inverted mixing bowl.
The clouds, giant spoonsful of beaten eggwhite
Play tag with each other.
The wind, scolding and fault-finding at the window
Is an old woman who life dangles about on a worn ribbon
But will not let go.
Beside the fire sits memory, a sorry ghost
With all his data too carefully compiled.
While doubts are greedy moth-worms
Burrowing into the delicate fabric
Of my contentment.