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John Van Dyke Dec 2019
A full century ago
Our mothers played church
Up on the hay-wagon.
They sang hymns
And took turns being preacher.
I can hear her telling me

And tonight one sister’s son
Will stand up tall and weave
A tapestry of notes
So beautiful ...
A heart, or two, or more
Will feel a touch
Much deeper than
Shining brass, the rustling of winter clothes, or applause

The other sister’s son, well...
He’ll shuffle to the porch,
Look up and turn his head
To see if he can hear
The long arc of a single note.
The silver cord,
Grandpap used to sing about.

And then he’ll cry.
Cause this is real.
It is no game.
A passing cloud, each song,
a bird, even bread.
Is held a little longer.
Clasped and pondered,
like a letter
Before it is sent away.

It took this long,
and this much loss and gain.
Things held tight and then let go.
To learn
This life is good,
And why old men
Can cry so easily
Cousin Richard is giving a concert and I can hear him 600 miles away
John Van Dyke Jul 2019
It’s a good thing
We all left when we did
Or I’d of spilled the beans.

Blithering on
in my drunken state,
You’d of learned it all

How sad I am
That making love
is only history

A withered fool
whose only dreams
are memories

Of indiscretions,
shameful then,
but blissful now

Slurred words tumbling out
would’ve told of
My ‘non-conforming’ love,

So powerful
but misconstrued,
that when she said she loved me

I stumbled to the piano
singing “ thine is the kingdom,
and the power,

And the glory”
(Oh, thank you, thank you)

Thanking a God
Whose address I misplaced
with words I forgot (till then).

An abomination
Long suppressed by force of will
Might’ve stung your ears,

Thank God I kept
My mouth barely shut
But poised

To betray the little storm
Wreaking havoc in my *****
But not yet my demise

Had I gone on.
But, No.
Good sense prevailed.

Dignity still intact,
I gathered up this twisted history,
This love, this brokenness,

Like so many rags,
trailing on the ground,
And tottered to my car

My dignity’s unscathed.
Oh, it’s a good thing, I suppose,
But, next time, stick around.
One more gin and tonic and it’d be a permanent assignment of shame
John Van Dyke Jun 2019
“I love you,”
she told him.
At last!
Instead of breaking down,
crying with relief and joy,
as he thought he would,
he whispered back:
all but a whisper
was drained out of him)
“I love you, too.”

And, in a moment,
the very words
he had waited for,
longed for,
became his tether,
a warm vest,
a peculiar fold in the blanket,
one holds through the night.

He repeated them like a mantra.
He pictured them in the ceiling tiles above the bone scan machine.
He heard them in the rhythm of the doctor’s voice,
He saw their outline in the branches beyond the window,

And they were the very last sound,
softly tumbling through his mind
when he slipped away.
A daughter’s words sustain
John Van Dyke Jun 2019
Today I saw a Robin,
first one this year.
And part way up
the grassy hill, the cedar tree,
my mother’s grave.

Here it is halfway through March.
I hadn’t even looked
To find the first.
Hopping, flying just above the ground.
But, more than that, to hear it sing.

Robins were a thing we shared:
“I saw one.” ,
“But are you sure?”,  
“Oh, yes, no mistaking that!”
Conviction in our voices making fact.

This winter’s roguery
Took me down a peg
Created pause,  a looking-back in me.
When robins came
My mind was somewhere else.
Instead of running out,
I held back and sought security:

The bird stood still.
I wondered: Could it be?
Is that her way of telling me?
I try to resurrect her voice:
“It must be Spring!”
But gone ‘s that part in me
that rises up with joy,
at birds, and early leaves
It’s gone  and buried there with her,
beside the cedar tree.“
John Van Dyke May 2019
After a neat little bite
She slid his sandwich into its baggie
And smiled,
Never tiring of her little joke.

“See, it’s alright. Im here with you, having a little fun!”

After the bell he peered into the bag.
And there it was
And a note:
“I love you, Aaron. “

This morning’s mixture of boredom and fear punctuated by her love

Then he daydreamed of helping with the clothespins,

Sheets snapping in the wind
The greatest love is delivered in small portions.
John Van Dyke May 2019
On this day, which seems a portal to the rest of life,
A pair of Rose breasted Grosbeaks come to the feeder
Under powerful white beaks, their throats are brilliant red.  
And Pound’s words: “What thou lov’st well” come to mind.
“What thou lov’st well”
Words I recited to Janey when her husband died.
To myself when I lost my house,
And that job, thirty years ago.
When mother’s white hair signaled her mortality
Now, this beautiful bird
And coffee
And taking breaths
An oriole in the apple tree
Picking nectar out of May blossoms...
“What thou lovest well remains,

the rest is dross

What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee

What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage”
I always wondered: Is this true? So far, it has been.
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