Legends of Ordinary Wisdom


When he is eighty-eight
The poet
bent like the trunk of
a weathered oak
shuffles to the lip of the pond
and drinks the vision
there at his feet.
"Hello, Old Mirror Friend,"
he tells the water.
"How well you hold
my withered countenance today
with its wrinkles and crows' feet
surrounded by turquoise sky.
And the water ripples back.

And when he's done
Off he trudges
the turtle he has become
to sit on an ancient rock.
He pats it
with a hand
dry as a long fallen leaf
and rests a while.
"Thanks for warming my backside,"
he sighs to the stone
as he stands to leave
And when he is gone up the path
the loam where he padded so slowly
remembers the gentle steps of his feet.

When she is ninety-three
confined to her chair
She sits
bones melting
to painful memory
her life miniaturized
like she'd never have believed
While the essence of her
scribbles the poem that says,

"I ache to ground myself here
planting as symbol
a cutting from a jade plant
into the dry soil of a neglected flowerpot
I want to plant my feet
ankle deep into my garden
I want them to grow roots…” *

A busy young mother
reads the words
that dance the page
And snatches up her youngest
her peanut buttered daughter
Whisking to the yard
to root their feet deep
in fragrant bread warm earth.
"Now stand up!" she cries
And they are trees
waving arm branches
at a turquoise sky.
"This is what it feels like,"
she says to her little one
the one with eyes that eat the world.
"See? We have our feet in the earth
just like trees
and we are growing and becoming
and greening and breathing."
And her little girl thinks
she is crazy
and so so beautiful
delicious as a peanut butter sandwich.

When that wee one
is twenty-two
and completely unmoored
by heartbreak
She remembers the earth
up to her knees
tethering her
steadying her
Holding her
like a mother
And the peanut butter fragrance
the treeness of it all.

When he is forty-five
and missing his grandfather
and worrying about his sons and his students
living in the hell of their world
The physics teacher holds the sight
he saw from his boyhood bird blind
of the old poet
bent like an ancient oak
as he shuffled down the path
And now he greets the pond
and sits on his grandfather's friend
"Thanks for warming my backside."

* From “Returning Home After the Fire Evacuation” by Vilma Olsvary Ginzberg

— Sashana Kane Proctor


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