Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sharmagne Leland-St.John

EVERY SONG

Every song I ever wrote for my father
had the word twilight in it.
And I wept with every word
every phrase
every conjugation
of every single verb.

Every song I ever wrote for my father
had the word twilight in it.
And I wept as each and every memory
swept over me.

Memories
of a father at twilight
that first year I came to live with him.
During those hot
thirsty Tarzana summers.
Memories of him teaching me
to always plant three seeds
at a time, into each and every hole
we had dug, scratched out, and weeded
row upon row
with his own father's hoe.
He said it gave each plant
two extra chances to grow.

I was his tomboy
his youngest child.
The son my mother couldn't
or wouldn't give him.
Running wild
living high up
in the fruit laden branches
of a sprawling old fig tree
in our back garden.
Shaded from the sun
and prying eyes
by giant leaves.
Spending entire days there
reading and dreaming
until he called me down
at twilight
to set the table for supper
in a home devoid of
a mother's love
a home devoid of
the feminine touch
but full to bursting
with the two children
she had loved so very much.

Every song I ever wrote for my father
had the word twilight in it.
I remember him during those lazy summer days
teaching me how to swim
in the fast, icy, clear waters of the Kern River
and at twilight, catching fireflies
in a dusty mason jar with a rusty screw top lid,
looking for arrowheads along the banks
and showing me, where the water moccasins hid.

I remember a father
who could not live with the woman
he had once loved to touch.
The woman who gave him
his two black-eyed daughters
but not the son he craved so much.
I remember all the tears she wept
the secrets she kept hidden
deep inside her Lakota heart.

I remember how all the men I loved
in my early years
were the same age he was
when I first came to live with him,
on that cold, slate-grey, February day
in nineteen-hundred and fifty-eight.

Every song I ever wrote for my father
had the word twilight in it.
And I remember him taking us to the drive-in
in his ancient, battered, blue Ford pick up truck.
A mattress and soft pillows
thrown in the back
for all us kids,
friends, and cousins
to cuddle up
under the warmth of
an antique patchwork quilt.
I remember Jujubees and Dr. Pepper
Popcorn, Milk Duds, and Cracker Jacks.
At twilight
giggling and waiting
for some scary movie to begin.

I remember him in the August twilight
when the chickens had flown
up into the cottonwoods to roost
pushing me on the sturdy rope swing
way out over the swirling, singing river
as he called me his "little black-eyed papoose"
or sitting quietly on the banks next to him
in the twilight, leaning against his strong, brown back
and together watching the hatch, and the rainbow trout
leaping out of the fast, icy, clear water to catch
a mayfly on the wing.

I remember him smiling and laughing
in the twilight, in his sweet and gentle way.
He died at the turn of the last century,
in the year two thousand
in an emergency room on New Year's Day and
in the twilight of my life
I remember all the things he was to me
poignantly
with each passing
fading, fleeting
memory.

1 comment:

  1. What a moving tribute to a father Sharmagne. Twilight is one of those forever colors. Thank you for posting this.

    L.P. Jones

    ReplyDelete