Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Asked by an editor to offer an example of the New England, Maine, culture behind my poetry I offered a description of my surprise when my Aunt Lila hugged me as family and friends gathered for my mother's funeral. When the account was published an illustration was added. Obviously the artist belonged to a different culture, or a more recent one, and I was depicted as a small boy. The poem , written later, was a response to the illustration. The poem was published, in a slightly different version, in a journal with the unlikely title of The League of Laboring Poets. As a current non-event I should add that , in  Poland Spring, as far as we could sense, the only earthquake was on the six o'clock news.

  Aunt Lila
They asked for an example
of that Down East Yankee reticence
they’d heard about, some incident —
Well, I said, you could do worse
than hearing what Aunt Lila did
at mother’s funeral: Lila, the youngest,
the last survivor of grandmother
Chute’s five ,children.
I can see her waiting, thin, fragile, 
outside the church: stepping up 
to give me a sudden brief hug,
ππmumbling a few words, then
releasing me. I can’t recall
any family member, mother, sister, 
aunt or uncle ever making such 
a display before.
A shy boy, a taciturn, loving aunt?
The boy, born long before
the dawn of this hug-hug, kiss-kiss age,
was a grown man with children
of his own and that embrace is
what he remembers best from a sad day 
half a century away. 

            [much later I remembered}

I remember Aunt Lilla as a woman,
tall, thin, brittle, not as father did, as
his young sister who helped him care for
grandfather's milk cows, pigs, chickens.
She had married Everett Bean whose
summer business was speedboat rides for tourists,
his Chris-Crafts all varnish, polish, and shine.

I was given a wind-up, painted model
of his boats. His were shark slim, cedar,
mahogany, and brass. A ten minute
one dollar ride always ended with
a sharp high speed turn, a shock of spray
and shrieks of surprise. Then the boat
wallowing, the engine's deep throated chuckle.

Uncle Everett must have had more to offer
than the thrill of a fast boat ride. Women,
specially the young pretty ones, sat up front
with him. Then, one summer, he took up
with one of our guests, a single lady
from Philadelphia who rented a cabin
for the summer. That fall they left together. 

One morning Everett dropped by for coffee.
"Some storm last night", he said. "Lightning
hit a big pine behind the camp. Both Martha
and me sat right up in bed." We were in
the hotel kitchen. My mother was there.
It was about then that "the lady from
Philadelphia" became just "that woman".

If I'd payed more attention I'd have learned sooner
women as well as men enjoy sex. The paint
on my model boat peeled. Then the spring broke.

Monday, August 15, 2011


When I post a poem on my blog it doesn't "feel" published but, according to most editors it has been published and is, therefore, not acceptable for publication in their journal. If I worked in an office and posted it on the bulletin board, would that count as published? Oh well—

Of course all editors, quite properly, ask that any item reprinted from their publication be credited so I should I should admit I neglected to indicate, in my last post, that the poem, Sisters, appeared in The Puckerbrush Review (Fall, 2010) but with the name Delano, misprinted.

Today I want to add one more Aunt Anne poem. This one appeared some years ago in The Beloit Poetry Journal. The local pictured is the farm near Kimball's Corner in Naples, Maine the farm Uncle George called "Limbo". I imagine Anne there, near the end of her days, after George's death. I don't know if she had a cat or if the grass was unmown but my cousin Bill, who spent many summer days at Limbo with his Grampa and Granny, says he recognizes Anne on the step, down to the persistent cigarette ash.

Aunt Anne Puts The Cat Out
For The Last time
She stood on the door rock
of granite hand quarried
two generations back.
Only the cat’s white tail shows
as it follows its trail
through uncut grass
to the barn.
She hesitates just
as the breeze pauses,
tipping her head to hear
the sigh of yard tree tops
relaxing. One cricket
of the chorus start too soon
and, embarrassed, stops.
Sounds so soft the scuff
of carpet slippers
on stone drowns them.
Her constant cough’s so small
the pendant ash of the cigarette
pinched in her thin lips
still won’t fall.
Her hands, spotted, knobbed
and veined, no longer
need to find each other
to be at rest: no longer 
pick at faded flowers
on her cotton dress.

Monday, August 1, 2011


     My first substantial collection of poems was UNCLE GEORGE:Poems of a Maine boyhood. It was well received and I had enjoyed producing it, both the poems and the wood cuts that illustrated the poems. When my cousin told me he would give me the collection of diaries kept my George's wife, Anne, my mother's sister,  I was elated: here was a possible source for another collection. They did inspire poems but I think you can see as you read them why they did not inspire a collection. As the first poem tells you, the diary began a year and a month before my birth.

          Aunt Anne Begins Her Diary
Jan. 1, 1925: decided today to keep a diary.
So there will be a record
good or bad of this passing life.
Will I have anything to say?
It may be enough if it
makes me remember, tomorrow,
the trivia of today.
Can I call what I do “something”?
Writing may be more important
than what I write about.
A list of unpleasant things —
   Work on Saturday
   Sewing tickets at the laundry
   Cold weather
   Mr. Kardish

The order of the poems is, as well as I can remember, in the order of composition. They were sometiems years apart which accounts for the repetition.

              The Diary
The twenty years fit easily
each in one slim booklet. 
Aunt Anne gave equal weight
to each item with hardly any 
lines to read between.
George and Bobby caught a fish.
Bought dress material at Porteus.
Lizzy writes from Florida.
George died today.
No notice of Uncle George’s death
beyond these words as terse
as brittle as rose petals pressed
between the pages.
George died today.
Perhaps that was 
all there was to say.

         Aunt Anne’s Diaries
Seventeen slim volumes
as spare as winter trees.
Warm for this time of year.
Lizzy wrote from Florida.
Weather. Names only
of neighbors who called.
Bought material from Porteous.
George’s new teeth don’t fit.
Shopping lists. Threads
of a life worn thin.
We let the furnace go out today (May 15).
George and Bobby caught a fish.
The blank remainders of each page filled
with wash worn silences hung out to dry.
Tue. August 14. Lizzy died
half past twelve today.
The record ends. A life so nearly spent
no surprise remains.
Went to ride with Bill in AM.
Watched old yr out and new yr in.
Tomorrow will be no surprise
even if the sun won’t rise.

Aunt Anne had come
to live with mother
for the summer. The operation
had been delayed
too long.
I read the short flat
line-a-day entries
in Aunt Anne’s diary.
Very hot.
Delano and Olive visit.
Lizzy had a bad day.
How well these almost blank 
revealing pages
echo the snow-bleached fields
outside my window. (I’d been
many miles away.)
How well they echo
long empty afternoons,
those hot breathless
August nights
they waited through.
Lizzy died: 2PM today.
I was miles away.