Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Poetry Tuesday: "Setting Free the Fireflies"

Last night, we sat on the front porch and played patriotic/American music on our mandolins and violin.  I am amazed at how much I have retained since May.  I know now which spot on the mandolin corresponds with which note.   I picked up "This Land Is Your Land" fairly quickly last night, and I could play it without looking at the instrument too often. 

As we sat on the porch, people hiked by on their way to watch the fireworks at the beach.  It felt like old-timey, small town America--except that those people didn't live in the neighborhood--they had just parked there.

This morning, as I picked stray firecracker debris out of the pool, I was missing my grandmother and all the times my family gathered at Myrtle Beach.  I was remembering my cousin, grown with children of his own, who delighted in collecting firework debris off the beach in the morning.

I'm missing my dead family members and my living ones.  Sigh.

Lutheran theology teaches us that our dead loved ones have gone on to Heaven, but it doesn't encourage living Lutherans to talk to the dead.  The whole idea of our loved ones singing in angel choirs and watching over us--those aren't Lutheran ideas, and most days, I'm glad.

Some days, however, I wish I was part of a religion that had more communication with dead ancestors.

On those days, I turn to poetry.  Writing gives me a way of remembering, of processing my yearning for times and people and places that are gone.  Poetry gives me a way of condensing that yearning into art.

Here's a poem I wrote years ago, before my grandmother died, and even before her house was sold.  Already, I was missing it, but more than that, I was missing my childhood. It was first published in The Palo Alto Review.

Setting Free the Fireflies

The apartment smells like my grandmother’s
house in the summer,
a childhood time before air conditioners
ruled the season.
Gentle breezes,
smelling of mowed lawns
and ripening tomatoes,
lapped their way around our beds.
The nights glowed
with that candle-like quality
which comes from distant street lights
beaming through window blinds
left open to the breeze.
Long after the yeasty smells
of my grandmother’s early morning baking
my parents crept into the bedroom
where I slept on sheets
made scratchy
from clothesline drying.
They took my jar
of carefully caught fireflies
and set my natural nightlight

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