Tag Archives: family heirloom

The Stuff of Life

I read a poem in the #57 issue of Rattle that I wish I had written. That I should have written ;). It’s so cool, and it’s renewed my interest in writing more posts about “the secret life of objects.”

Maybe I should try some in poetic form.

In the main, of course, the poem reminds me of myself, but it also reminds me of my father who spent the last 8-10 years of his life giving me “stuff” he wanted to pass on to someone who would appreciate them.

Taking a little break this week, so I’m closing comments, but if you like the poem, feel free to share it!

Wendy Barker

STUFF

Who brought these pieces here? Somebody making the shift
to assisted living? Someone’s sixty-something kids after
Mom or Dad had finally “gone aloft,”
as my English granny would have said? The tchotchkes
cramming this antique shop I stroll through with my son:
ivory-handled button hooks, cameo pins,
tureens with porcelain peacock tails for handles. Before she died,
my husband’s mother begged him to take the claw-footed,
eight-foot-tall armoire he hated. At seventy,
my mother labeled every object in her house, color-coded
for each daughter. She wanted to know which one of us
would wear her ruby ring, jade necklace,
turquoise bracelet. Where will my granny’s silver trays,
salt cellars, tea pots, go? What about my mother’s copy—
tattered, water-stained—of Just So Stories,
“O Best Beloved?” The 1924 collection of poems my father
cradled when he read aloud at dinner—will those end up
on my son’s shelves? At Half Price
Books? A garage sale, eBay, landfill? A friend says we spend
the first three-quarters of our lives accumulating, the final
quarter, disposing. As a kid, I treasured
my doll-sized china tea sets, which, packed with crumpled tissue
in a taped box, fell off the back of our truck while leaving
one house for another. Like my photo albums
of the ’60s the movers never found. No pictures left of my black
mascara eye-lashed, mini-skirted, leggy self, no images
of my tennis-playing lover. I’ve read about
the bower birds, who attract their mates with shiny
pebbles and trinkets rescued from trash bins. Did one
of my tiny tea cups end up in some
bird’s bower? Sometimes I crave bare walls, windows open
wide to sky, the oaks, mesquite, and sumac. But who
am I without my journals of the past
twenty years, my embroidered needle case, the filigree
glass vase my husband gave me? Empty as if coming
into this world? Or preparing to leave.

from Rattle #58, Winter 2017

To hear Wendy read it:

[download audio]

__________

Wendy Barker: “I can’t not write poetry. I’ve written essays, even scholarly work, but it’s poetry I always come back to. If I’m not working on a poem, I’m in trouble. Something about placing the words, the phrases, the lines, the images, the sounds on a page brings me alive. Alive in the moment. Writing poetry is also a way of examining conflicts or trouble in my own personal space and in the wider world. I’d like to think poems can make a difference. I guess I’m always in thrall to Rilke’s great line: ‘You must change your life.’ And I like to think of Auden’s lines in his poem ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’: ‘For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives / In the valley of its making where executives / would never want to tamper, flows on south / From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs, / Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives, / A way of happening, a mouth.’ I guess I keep on going because of all those mouths that came before me and that surround me, continually feeding me. And I long to provide a little something for those who are also hungry, so that we can feed each other.”

I can’t let you go without a cute pic. Here’s a new one of Theo and Gary, my son and ND’s dogs.

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