“Anything is better than lies and deceit!” Leo Tolstoy,Anna Karenina
This is not an epic tale in dactylic hexameter
Such as Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey;
No kidnap of Helen or destruction of Troy,
Nor a lover’s star-crossed tragedy,
But an Ohio story, not as unique
As you might well imagine:
My father aspired to escape his parents
And their protective quarantine,
To write stories for the radio,
And met a beautiful poetess
With the soul of a whippoorwill
And a heart born in the wilderness.
She could poem all day
And poem all night,
She could poem you a poem
Till the dawn’s first light.
She could rhyme you by the river,
She could rhyme you in the wood,
She could rhyme you in the field
Where the scarecrow stood.
She could mete out any meter
Like galloping horses on a plain,
Dactylic or iambic
Till you went insane.
He put a ladder to her window
And they ran away together
To a justice of the peace in ol’ Kentuck
Too young to know any better
And got married, till death did them part.
O how we loved them both,
My little sis and I,
Their happily-ever-after troth.
But I’m getting ahead of my story –
I was born respectably later
And my sister sometime after that
Not knowing of the traitor.
Mama suckled me on poetry
Instead of mothers’ milk.
Maybe that’s why I grew up skinny
With a voice as soft as silk.
Dad told me stories sitting on his lap
O how he could spin yarn,
He could tell me stories
That would burn down an old barn
And Mama burned his face with kisses
After we were put to sleep
Dreaming dreams with safety nets,
Little souls deposited in God’s keep.
If only our stories had continued so
We would have been content,
But that was not what was to be
And nothing we could prevent.
Maybe Dad grew jealous of her poetry
Or his parents threatened him
That if he didn’t break it off,
His fortune would be slim.
One night she was loved and cherished,
The next night she was betrayed.
Her fragile soul was broken
When she saw their vows unmade.
I’m sure they didn’t mean to hurt us,
We were just collateral damage,
Thinking we had somehow caused it
And felt like abandoned baggage.
How could she stop being Mama?
Things like that couldn’t be,
Such was inconceivable
To a seven-year-old and one who’s only three.
We were raised by housekeepers
For the next two years,
Grandma made sure they were ugly as sin
To assure there were no affairs.
I remember Missus Weber
Told me of the Rapture at the end of days
And scared the bejesus out of me
With the world being set ablaze.
Then Dad brought home another Mom.
They told us Mama never loved us,
That she’d take a pancake turner to me
If something made her fuss.
The new Mom, that’s what I was to call her,
Not stepmom; that she wouldn’t stand for,
She promised she would love us
Better’n we’d been loved before.
Years later I grew to understand that
Love meant something else to her
Than what we had understood:
Cooking meals and pots were stirred,
Making sure we brushed our teeth and
Washing behind our ears.
No poetry would feed our souls,
No one would wipe our tears,
The ten commandments would have to do for us,
We pretended that was love
And laid our dreams to rest
In the starry night above.
One day Mama married another man,
They moved to Panama
And adopted two new infants
But a careless driver killed Mama.
My little sis and I grew up and moved away
To escape from our ordeal,
Sis went to live in Connecticut
And I moved to Israel.
We’d keep alive our memories
Of evidence of Mama’s love.
Sis was always certain of it
But I had doubts thereof.
What with all the fictions I’d been told,
What memories could I believe?
I continued to play the son
But myself I couldn’t deceive.
Dad passed away; it’s been ten years now.
Soon after that, Mom became demented.
Her brain was strip-mined by disease
And claims that she had married Dad were soon rejected.
With all the fictions gone, all that was left was truth:
That sis and I were Mama’s kids, Mom had to agree.
A few years ago, the infant girl Mama had adopted
Sent us Mama’s book of poetry,
Casting away my many doubts
And resurrecting love from Lazarus’ cave.
Mom passed away some months ago,
Buried next to Dad, grave to grave.
Maybe they’ll warm each other’s bones
On the long train-ride to eternity
Pointing out the windows with bony fingers
At stars and galaxies flying by.
February 16, 2020 (c) Mike Stone 2020
MIKE STONE (Uncollected Works) is a regular participant in The Poet by Day, Wednesday Writing Prompt. We are always delighted with the opportunity to read and share his work. Mike was born in Columbus Ohio, USA, in 1947 and was graduated from Ohio State University with a BA in Psychology. He served in both the US Army and the Israeli Defense Forces. He’s been writing poetry since he was a student at OSU and supports his writing habit by working as a computer networking security consultant. He moved to Israel in 1978 and lives in Raanana. He is married and has three sons and seven grandchildren. Mike’s Amazon Page is HERE. His work is recommended without reservation.