robert martin
robert martin
Apr 8, 2010

Mama I remember going to your mother’s house to Far City,
It was really called Forest City I realized later,
And then I realized that my very language,
The nuance of my speech,
Its cadence,
Its history,
This richness,
This river of culture,
Each note,
Each sound,
I realized I speak like mother speaks,
And I remember your mother,
Grandma lived in Far City in a mountain cabin
beside the road into town,
And that cabin rambled one room to the next,
And it rambled neat as a pin and glorious
Full of memories and mountain things--
Straw dolls, plates of china, trucker hats,
Each pinned to the wall,
Each memory,
A decoration,
A statement,
Of a time and a place,
An attitude,
Those little cedar boxes with the bark still on’em,
Or a weather rock that says, “If it’s wet, it’s raining,”
I remember the excitement and hugs of those visits,
I remember morning coffee around a red-checkered tablecloth,  
And I remember one time, when we came to visit after dark unannounced
Grandma greeted us with a pistol.
And I remember no more visits after dark unannounced.
I remember our lives unfolding full of wonder and mystery and innocence,
Mom and apple pie,
Christmas, and Thanksgiving,
You are its heart--
You are the center from which we move from,
And the place that we move to,
I remember the beach, coaster rides, cotton candy,
and picnics from the trunk of an old Ford,
I remember mountain trips to Maggie Valley, Ghost Town,
and Tweetsie Railroad and gunfights and Indian attacks
and Fred Kirby The Singing Cowboy.
I remember cable cars up the side of a slow mountain,
and ice cream floats in cola.
The family by cascading waterfalls framed in a picture,
All skinny and proud.
We did not know how good we were.
How perfect we were.
How beautiful we were.
It was our time.
I remember the Great Pee Dee River speeding around in the boat Dad made—
We were the world and it was lightening.
How we loved to eat fresh panned fried fish, fries, and hushpuppies by the bushel.
I remember bamboo poles, tackle, and cattails along a mill ponds edge,
Said you saw me swimming in the pond with the other mill boys naked
and I cried and said I would not do it again,
Straw forts angry bees’ old jars cardboard boxes grassy hills.
Played Kick the Can in the dark, and when I was tired came home to you
who tucked me into bed.
“Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”
Mama-- you are a part of who I am,
And that part is sacred and precious
Like mountain laurel in spring
Or orchids beside a secret path.
Of red earth and green fields.
I am the too green corn.
You are the rain.
You are the framer.
And I am the frame.
You offer all that you have.
And I, I am the greedy one.
I take all that you give.
Know all who meet me,
Meet a part of you.
And in this Great Mystery--
We are your song,
And our song is real and without pretense.
Our song-- of which I am so proud.
Our song-- all southern and grit.
And we take our grits on a plate, and our soup in a bowl,
Our eggs fried, our chicken fried,
Our okra, squash, cornbread, ham, beef, pork, fish.
And ice tea,
our tea is strong enough to stand a spoon and sweet
boiled in a pot.
I would carry the tea leaves out to put around the red tip
on the corner of our house at the mill village,
And it grew to be glorious.
We were all glorious in your eyes.
Let no one say a hurtful word about your children.
You would not have it.
So I was perfect.
Unadorned to be who I was.
And I always needed you for the reminding,
For I sat on your couch without a word,
For not a word was needed.
Mother, help me remember who I am?
And it was so easy for you.
I was always-- your little boy.
I did nothing to receive your love.
And I knew I could do nothing more.
And I knew I could do nothing less.
I knew the ways of your silence.
The manner of your song,
Always playing its melody for me.
Forever soft and gentle and sweet.
Would bend me to its song.
You need not do anything.
There is nothing to prove.
Nothing to do.
Nothing left undone.
Be who you are
because you are perfect.
Like some invisible, gentle wind
that over the years gradually bends a tree
when no one was looking
I became a man and made my way
Always returning,
Always going to the well,
And you-- always there,
And I-- always your little boy.
Mama, I tell what you told me,
I give what you gave me.
I form my words as you wrote them to shape my heart,
And I remember with each step of my form,
and each breath of my silence,
I remember our family,
And I remember how it is I, who has had the privilege,
I have had this moment of family,
I am this nurtured seed,
I am part of something that is grand, and sacred,
And constant, and ever flowing as are the seasons,
And from strength I speak,
From love I speak,
From just one,
Who is in a line that comes from many,
I speak.
I speak from an ocean.
I speak from many brothers,
I speak from many sisters,
I speak from my children,
My children. my sisters. my brothers.
In this great, majestic, wonderful, sacred tapestry,
I grew tired, and came home to you
who tucked me into bed now I pray,
I pray for all those who showed us the way,
The ones before,
And the ones who come after,
As a child I pray,
I pray as a child,
By your side I pray.
“Now, I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake.
I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
Mama you are a part of who I am,
And that part is sacred and precious
Like mountain laurel in spring,
Or orchids beside a secret path.
Of red earth and green fields.
I am the too green corn.
You are the rain.

Copyright 2010, Robert S. Martin
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