Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Passing On

When Evelyn passed away two weeks ago, I felt myself grieving the loss of someone who had appreciated poetry and her Swedish heritage. She had suffered from Dementia for the last seven years and was not cognizant of family or friends. Yet, somewhere in her mind, there were memories of summer evenings spent on her porch reading old poems and short stories by her father. Mr. Zeff had come to this country in the early 1900's and brought with him the skill and spirit of another Hans Christian Anderson. Only he was from Stockholm not Copenhagen.

In 1983, Evelyn had invited me and mother down for coffee. We sat behind a screened-in porch avoiding the August mosquitoes and a gusting breeze. A storm was brewing but still we took advantage of the cool twilight. The evening began with a discussion on her father's death and the things he left behind. The most interesting was a leather-bound journal that recorded daily events, thoughts of the day and some ideas for future stories. The family knew about his writing but never expected to find a folded piece of paper in the spine which contained a poem from a strange woman. The penmanship was delicate and the words of the verse, "Forsaken", most tragic. This poetic lament of desertion and longing haunted Evelyn and her sisters. Their mother had been a very practical woman with little interest in art or romantic writing. Her husband had always kept his hobby separate from their everyday routine. So who was this other woman? When did she know their father? Was he single or married at the time? The questions became a mental collage of images and possibilities. It became an emotional inquest into this lady's state of mind and her role in their father's life. The findings were only sheer speculation and her identity never solved. Yet, her presence was a poem within, itself. Something that lingers and haunts the observer with its poignant beauty and open-ended story.



My father died.
His soul became his passport
back to a land where lindens
whispered leaf psalms
in the dark throat of Sweden.


My father died
and left us the leather-bound journal
of his life resting
under dust and old lamplight.

A piece of paper
was pulled down, deeply drawn into the heart
of his hand-written pages.

Without permission,
we exhumed its voice.


Carefully, we read the poem
and learned that love
had existed as an island
of fog-sabled pines

where fate directed its scene
of a woman grieving the man
who abandoned her.


Breath gone, it white petals
pierced by sorrow’s thorn

and the moon
a sagging womb at dusk

These images and more
spilled from the flask of a woman’s tongue
long before our birth.

Yet, we now become
the donee of her song
Its melody poured into the wine glasses
of our curiosity.


She could have been anyone.
A girl who went to the university,
or a girl who made lace in the factory.

After a miscarriage,
She could have walked the pier:

her long hair measuring
the wind in mercury highlights

and a ruffled hood
afloat on her shoulders

while eyes saw drowning
in the glacial melt of Spring.


Who Knows?

We can only assume
that she stood in the twilight
while the trees addressed her by name

and the origin of hurt
gushed somewhere from her lips
into the deluge of evening shadows.

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

Gwendrina, you have a marvelous
talent! I love the stories you
weave dear, and how sweetly a poem
is offered to further enhance the
reader's imagination.
Inquest is exquisite and reminds
me of a time, a place, where
the deepest love may not always
be realized, but lives within
our hearts forever.