Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My mother in front of my childhood home

My sister-in-law, Jeannie, has been scanning some more of the remnants of my early family life. My parents purchased this home shortly after the birth of their fourth child, my brother, Richard, in 1943. I'll have more to say about this house later. All these photos have been making me think a lot about the relation between memory and physical objects, and photographic portraits of physical objects. Things are very important to me, and I have had to come to realize that this importance is probably misplaced and probably not true for many other people.
This camel-colored coat my mother often wore, and I remember it well. About this time, when my four brothers were born in five years, she stopped bothering as much about her hair and her clothes.
This pictures resonance for me tonight is in the cobblestone retaining wall, which my parents later removed and replaced with a rock garden. So far tonight, I have touched on three other memory threads that I would like to develop. But, sticking to this one. . .
This rock wall was topped with a flat cement slab ideal for playing on and the scene of many of my early memories of solitary play. Here is a poem I wrote about one of them.


Large ants, black and glossy, make Indian-file trails
across the corner of the wall by the entrance stairs.
I sit and watch them; then cut one not quite in half
with the sharp serrated edge of a milk bottle cap.
The ant keeps moving but stops getting anyw

Of course it can utter no little cries.
The marching line of ants shifts, moving around
the chosen ant. I lift it to a doll’s house ironing board
which has folding legs and a tiny fabric cover but no iron.

After watching the ants another long time, I chose
one at random and press on the bottle cap, but gently
so as not to sever the ant. Important meaning fills me;
I sit with the sun’s warmth on my shoulderblades,
on the roots of my pigtailed hair, watching, watching ants.

This is one of my earliest poems, and tries to capture what was a very powerful memory for me. Before my brother emails to tell me that "shoulderblades" is two words, I must mention that here the I prefer the rhythm of reading it as one. Of such tiny decisions is art made.

I hope to keep up my posting now. There are a lot of things I want to consider. Stick with me, small faithful band of readers!

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