Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Braids of Memory

This is my father, Jack Hicks Hopper, holding the arm of his mother, Marjory Ann Carr Hopper,  when she was on a visit to our farm outside Schenectady about 1956. All through my childhood, Dad wrote his mother a letter every Sunday from our homes in New York State to her home in Yuma, Arizona. I had left home by the time of this visit, but my youngest brother, Robert, spoke often about it. He would have been about 10 at the time. He grew very close to Grandmother then and used to sit and talk to her for hours. She was braiding rugs from heavy woolen scraps left from a project my mother had abandoned years earlier. Since her hands were old and she had cataracts, she had some trouble with this project; the rugs were lumpy and round with coarse stitching, never managing a nice oval shape, and only reaching slightly more than two feet in diameter. Later we had these rugs all over in the house in Shaker Heights, mostly near doorways where they functioned as dust catchers. Robert eventually scored two of them which he took to his home in Texas, and used them there until he died. He mentioned them fondly to me on every visit. 
So naturally this poem attracted my attention for a Memory Thread;
I most particularly love the "tiny fires."


In our kitchen was a rag rug
my mother bought for its bright mix of colors.
It was my task on cleaning days
to drape it over the line in the back yard
and, with a tool shaped like the wing
of a giant dragonfly, proceed to whack it
until a cumulus of dust swirled overhead,
earning my mother's approval.
Cleaning—what she called "redding up"—
was both industry and passion for her,
while I, in my arrogance, thought it foolish
and beneath my talents: The dust she chased
from one corner fled to another,
and then she, too, was dust.

Grown old now, I live alone
in a house Time traded me, house for house,
until I learned grief also is a kind of clutter:
Drive one grief out the door,
two others knock, seeking a place within.
And though too late, I ask for her forgiveness,
who hated whatever tarnished or made dim
the light and luster of common things:
lamp, glass vase, the figure in a photograph,
wood grain of table, braiding in a rug—
this rag rug I took from memory
and put into a poem, that I might see it, as before,
dancing its tiny fires into the morning's
early slant of light.

Peter Everwine

Listening Long and Late, 
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013, page 60.

No comments:

Post a Comment