Another day in National Poetry Month, another poem from the files. This one comes from CONNECTING DOTS, POEMS OF MY JOURNEY, my autobiographical collection published by Boyds Mills Press in 2004. It begins with one of my earliest memories, when I was four and got bitten by a dog, and ends with a poem about my parting wish for others.
The collection was an experiment in a couple of ways. At that time it was a bit unorthodox to place a brief description about each poem at the top of the page, and it was against traditional wisdom to write a book for young readers that spanned the life of the poet from age four to sixty-five. My editor for Connecting Dots, WENDY MURRAY, said then, and I think still believes, it’s the best book I’ve ever done. The cover photo is me at age four, the year I memorized the Gettysburg Address and recited it from memory on a stage at Grace Methodist Church, the place where I would marry SANDRA SUE KENNON eighteen years later.
Here's the final poem in the book, "I Wish You Bright Paint."I’m 65. I sit here at my desk holding this poem -- the last dot in my picture -- and I wonder who will read it. To you, whoever you are, thank you. I wish you well.
WISHING YOU BRIGHT PAINT
Sometimes I feel --
I don’t know --
like a tube of toothpaste toward the end
rolled up tight against the cap
for a few last brushings.
But if I say the tube is paint
used in pictures of my life,
that makes me feel
I’ve accomplished something,
used the squeezes
to make things happen.
I like that better
So as we go on, you and I,
you to your life, me to mine,
I wish you tubes of bright paint
for all the pictures of your life.
Take off their caps,
squeeze them well,
(c) 2004 David L. Harrison
from CONNECTING DOTS, 2004
Spring has come slowly to Goose Lake but hopefully we’ve had our last frost and plants are coming on fast now. Yesterday I counted one group of three pairs of geese with thirteen new goslings among them not bigger than chicks. Another pair, in a neighbor’s yard right over the fence from us, had five young of their own and were out walking with them when a Cooper’s Hawk divebombed them and narrowly missed one of the little fluff balls beside a parent. It happened so fast the parents seemed bewildered by the attack. The hawk kept going so no harm came from the event.
Yesterday evening Sandy and I sat by the lake with cheese and crackers and warmed ourselves by the firepit. I look forward to months to come of eating and relaxing out there, watching the endless show.
Yesterday we celebrated the 28th birthday of JOSIE SHUTE. It was the first time that Josie had ever been 28 and the first time that SANDY and I had ever been to Lambert’s Café, Home of Throwed Rolls, in Ozark, Missouri. If you don’t know about Lambert’s, please look it up. I haven’t the space here to describe it all although the name of the place gives you the first clue of a restaurant where chaos is organized and so much food flows that the very air is caloric. The first thing you notice about Lambert’s is the line waiting to get it. The second is that you’re now part of the line.
Our line started with grandsons KRIS and TYLER, three pretty women, SANDY, ROBIN, and JOSIE, son-in-law TIM, and the bewildered one on the end would be me. We were still outside, it was windy and raining. I don’t know if that was part of their marketing strategy, but it sure made me want to make it inside.
The wait was short, we were soon inside and seated, and the fun began. It sounded like a rumbling stomach in there. A roll thrower was firing away halfway across the room at people with their hands out to catch him. He was deadly accurate and the only roll I saw dropped the whole time we were there was the one I dropped — from a foot away. Ah come on, who knew the guy, who was standing behind my back, wasn’t going to just hand me the roll?
Here’s the birthday girl with Tyler (her sweetie) to her right and Kris on her left. I would have told Kris to take off the cap indoors but several of waiters were wearing caps so what could I say? He got by with a freebie.
Thank you, Tim and Robin, for treating us to more than a mere birthday party. Now we can tell people we’ve eaten and eaten and eaten and eaten at Lambert’s.
Yesterday SANDY and I did some trimming and odds and ends around our patio then settled down at a table by the lake to watch the show of Spring returning to Goose Lake. While we were settling in, I received a note from PATRICK REYNOLDS, conductor of the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, to say that The “Bugs” Concert went beautifully. The audience enjoyed the poems and loved the part where pianist MOLLIE STEEN and I read partner poems together. Pat is going to send me a recording of the whole concert!
On a blue-sky, mid–70s afternoon, the cast of local characters got busy about their business. A fish jumped. Small bass maybe. Around our feeders, the birds began to return from goodness knows where. Cardinals came first. Two males in the same tree: trouble brewing. First finch. Sparrows, year around resident. First dove. First-in-ages woodpecker, poking around in the dead maple tree for juicy larvae.
High overhead a vulture made a couple of lazy circles, checking to see if anything interesting had passed away since its last visit. Crows everywhere, reasserting their position as benign royalty of the neighborhood. Robins, quiet for a change, hopping from limp to limp, no doubt with homesteading in mind.
Gnats bothered around our heads while ants hustled near our toes. A worried little white cabbage butterfly bounced through the air like it was afraid it had come out too soon. Turtles returned to their favorite sport, sunning themselves in large numbers on the ledge along our part of the lake. A squirrel eyed us carefully while detouring around our table and making up a tree. Conspicuous by its absence was a chipmunk. I don’t like chipmunks any more than I like raccoons, but gosh they’re both so cute.
And ducks and ducks and ducks. And geese! Everywhere: in the water, in lawns, blocking traffic, many of them already paired off. Ahh, spring. Bring it on!