Thursday, April 30, 2015

David's Portrait

Here, in another one of my mother Olga's scanned slides, 
beloved family friend Burns Hansen takes a portrait of my brother, David. 
Burns and Evelynn have already moved back West, but sometimes 
he comes back to GE in Schenectady on business and visits us. 
This picture was taken at the white corner of the house on The Farm.
If the yellow is forsythia, it is springtime. David was born in 1944, so
this would date about the mid-fifties. I remember well
those all-purpose, adjustable military style belts the boys wore.

Answer the Phone

Before telephones the dead sent letters
sheets of tissue so thin

a hand passed through them like smoke.
They dried the tongue like warm red wine,

glittered our dreams into fragments.

Now the dead use the phone like everyone else;
they ring once and wait. We press the receiver

to our ears, hear the long static hum,

faint clicks and breaths,
explanations and descriptions. They want one

thing only, to tell us what they saw
when one light went out

and another turned on. We want to
show them the pictures we've taken

since they left us: that cathedral in central Europe;
the jellyfish at a California aquarium.

We forget what we need to tell the dead
as we rush too quickly from sleep.

Their letters stopped coming years ago.

We wait by the phone.

Erica Goss

Wild Place; poems by Erica Goss 
Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, Kentucky, 2012, page 4.

Looking at these slides to find those I want to share on this blog has made me think of the dead more often. Burns has been gone for quite some time. I would phone him if I could! His wife, Evelynn, told me that he saved the copy of my poem I had sent him (see link above) in a small box of his treasured things. I just talked to David yesterday!

Erica Goss is the Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, near my home in California. I think this is her first book, but she has won many awards and published poems in many different places. I have been wondering: If I had written this poem, would I have tried to have it all, or mostly, in couplets? What do you think??

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