Again I’m sorry to be so slow in posting August’s Word of the Month: men Here’s my contribution.
I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned my grandfather William Harrison except in passing when talking about my dad, John Harrison. William was born in 1855 into a family that migrated from England to Canada to the United States, a family of boys who became veterinarians and girls who became nurses. Eventually he wound up in Missouri where he married Anna Webb and set up practice in Springfield. He died at 65 when my father was nine years old. I possess three treasures that once belonged to my grandfather, a text book from his college days, a pair of delicate wire-framed glasses, and his pocket watch. I never tire of looking at them. I wonder what I would have called this man had I known him in person when I was a little boy. Grandfather? Granddad? Granddaddy? Papa? Since I get to choose now, I’ll call him Granddad. This poem is about my granddad.
Pale moon framed in gold,
metallic blue hands
delicate as architect arrows
aimed precisely at hour and minute.
Where 6 should be, a miniature hand
points to seconds ringed around its rim.
E. Howard of Boston made this watch
that Granddad carried —
on a chain no doubt –
one end fastened to his belt
so he wouldn’t lose it
on a dairy barn floor.
I imagine him,
his bad leg bent slightly,
one hand resting on someone’s cow.
Gold-rimmed spectacles perch on his nose,
E. Howard of Boston faithfully marking
the passing of his abbreviated life.
A book, glasses, and watch – all I have
of the grandfather I never knew,
personal objects handed down
from him to my father to me,
three generations of men
connected by past and present.
Today I get up the nerve.
For the first time in all these years
I twist the winding stem a few clicks,
wondering if it will snap off in my fingers.
The second hand starts
like a light sleeper startled awake
by the sound of tinny ticking.
I press the watch to my ear.
Its voice speaks to me
as it once spoke to him.
I smile at Granddad,
one hundred years removed.
I smile knowing I can summon him again,
visit him as he makes his rounds.
(c) by David L. Harrison