Sunday, July 5, 2009

a son grown old wonders (3)

a son grown old wonders

a son grown old wonders ...
what forces shaped u without/within;
made u who & what u are.
the world, they say, convulsed with war
shortly after yr nativity. did planet-wide
human folly rock u in yr cradle?
or merely announce yr birth?
did u with infant tears mourn
francis ferdinand, curse the hun, or
in fits of colic criticize wilson. were u
even viscerally aware of san juan hill?
or did worldly turmoil play itself out
anonymously on the landscapes of yr soul?

a son grown old wonders
why u made such an ironclad covenant
with god & so early? one that pushed u
through the open doors of the church at five;
that kept u lifelong from dancing &
drinking rootbeer & wearing pants –
ever near the cross, close to
calvary's mountain.
i know daddy well enough through his stories,
his self-adorning exaggerations; through my
memories. but u, ever less than self-disclosing,
put up a glass to be looked through darkly.
u are my enigmatic sphinx; keeper of the
riddle of my own life.

a son grown old wonders
what the world seemed like to u growing up.
did ubiquitous racism really try to pry apart
reverends grandma & grandpa? to keep them –
she, african black, he, cherokee light –
from riding together on southern trains? did anyone
u know get lynched?
was it strange being raised by two preachers?
or growing up with aunt clara, so voluble, so
intrepid, so different from u? what ever
happened to uncle lucius? no one ever talks
about him. were u a happy child & teenager?
did u have lots of friends? or did jesus suffice?

a son grown old wonders
why u went to paine college? was there
something in the name? a promise of expiation,
perhaps? did that colored church school in augusta
shield u from worldly ways or present u with
the temptations u so religiously sought to avoid.
what did u learn?
what about yr rumored boyfriends there –
frank yerby, a writer of romance fiction &
benny mays, a future college president? did u
outgrow them? did something go amiss?
was platonic love enough for them? or did
they flee from the taint of yr goodness?

a son grown old wonders
why u became a teacher? what drove u?
something more than a love of children?
what did u give? something of yr self? what?
were u different in the classroom than at home?
did u smile a while; give yr face a rest?
stand up straight? elevate yr chest?
i've been told that u were a model teacher.
i saw for myself that u were good. is it true
that female teachers, when u started, couldn't
smoke, drink, wear make-up or appear in public
in the company of any man but their brother or
father. how did u manage the change?

a son grown old wonders
about that covenant. was marrying daddy a part of
the deal? he was a preacher true enough. a triple threat;
could preach, sing & pray. what drew u to him;
he to u? was it contract or contrast – or both.
he so black & u so red & fair; he so mississippi
& u so georgia.
was he to u the sinful world redeemed?
i know he seemed the son of man. when he preached,
the devil quaked; when he laughed, the thunder rolled.
did his homiletics hook u?
or did his physicality send u swaying like a
willow in a soft wind.

a child grown old ponders
the acts leading to my making. were these, too,
in the covenant? did u shout, cry out loud?
what words did u use; whose name did u call?
or were u mute. did u feel good or guilty?
could u make love to my daddy & still be
faithful to god?
did u read the fine print? did u get value for
value? is god an honorable contractor? why, then,
did he smite yr firstborn sending u into a
headspin of recurrent catatonia?
speak to me my beloved sphinx.
let me solve yr riddle & live.

© Joseph McNair;2009

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